Gotham CEO Peter McGuinness Departs for DDB Chicago

Having Turned Things Around at Interpublic Shop, 'I'm Up for the Change Personally and Professionally'

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Peter McGuinness has resigned as chairman-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham and is heading to Omnicom Group's DDB. There he will become the president-CEO of the network's Chicago office.

Peter McGuinness

He fills a post that has been vacant since December, when Rick Carpenter, a 22 -year DDB veteran, was asked to step down as part of an effort by DDB leaders to bring in new talent and try to modernize the Chicago office. It's a tall order but also a necessary task; the office is hugely important to the network overall, handling key clients such as McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch and State Farm.

DDB is betting Mr. McGuinness is equipped for the challenge based on his aggressive turnaround of Gotham . In his three years as CEO there, the New York-based shop went from barely being on the new-business circuit to regularly winning accounts -- expanding its roster to include the likes Denny's, Chobani and Best Western. His departure comes while the agency is one of five finalists in BMW's review for a new creative shop.

"We came far fast at Gotham , we accomplished a lot and I'm proud of it," Mr. McGuinness told Ad Age . "I'm leaving it in a much better place than I found it. ... Now, I'm up for a change personally and professionally."

For Mr. McGuinness, moving to DDB means leaving behind both Interpublic and McCann Worldgroup, where he has spent his entire career. He began as an intern in McCann Erickson's accounting department, and worked his way up, by age 30 earning the title of McCann Worldgroup exec-VP and worldwide account director. He took Mastercard's "Priceless" campaign global, helping to adopt it into 45 languages, and also ran a portfolio of Unilever brands in 90 countries. Later he spent time at Interpublic's Momentum , where he ran the Europe, Middle East and Africa region before Interpublic in 2008 asked him to run Gotham .

McCann Worldgroup did not respond to a request for comment about a succession plan at Gotham by press time.

Asked why he chose to move to DDB, Chicago, he said: "It's a good thing to go to a different part of the country and run an agency that has a different client base and a different culture. ... It'll be a challenge and a good one. DDB, to me, is a very, very strong brand and they've always had a commitment to creativity. They're steeped in potential." He added: "I've always respected Omnicom as a holding company."

It's unclear when Mr. McGuinness will relocate and begin in his new post. Once there he will partner with other relative newcomers to the shop, such as chief creative Ewan Paterson and chief digital officer Jonathan Sackett. Mr. McGuinness stressed that part of the reason he accepted the job is because he and Mr. Paterson "see eye to eye on just about everything." "You've got to have a partnership in this business, and at the end of the day, we're selling creativity," Mr. McGuinness said. "[Mr. Paterson] is very committed to enhancing the product and that 's important to me."

According to DDB North America President Mark O' Brien -- who has been overseeing the Chicago office for the past eight months while he conducted the search for Mr. Carpenter's replacement -- he had "honed in Peter" early on. "We had said from the beginning that we didn't think there were a whole lot of candidates out there that fit the bill. ... Peter has been on my list of candidates from the day we announced we were doing a search."

"DDB Chicago has always been a key office for us, and together, Ewan and Peter make a truly awesome team," DDB Worldwide's president-CEO, Chuck Brymer, said in a statement. "I'm thrilled to have Peter join us and am looking forward to his contributions to the agency and network."

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