JWT Restructures Leadership Team, Appoints North American CEO

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JWT's Simon Pearce, Tamara Ingram and Ben James
JWT's Simon Pearce, Tamara Ingram and Ben James Credit: Courtesy JWT

About two years after taking the helm as J. Walter Thompson Co.'s worldwide CEO, Tamara Ingram is changing up the executive leadership structure at the WPP agency.

Ingram has hired McGarryBowen U.S. CEO Simon Pearce as the chief executive of North America, a newly created position. He will take on the role, which includes running JWT New York, in April and will report to Ingram. Lynn Power, CEO of JWT New York, will leave the company the company to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Additionally, Ben James has been promoted from managing director of creative innovation and executive creative director to chief creative officer of JWT New York. Brent Choi, who has been acting as chief creative officer of both New York and Toronto, has been named president of JWT Canada and chief creative officer of global brands the agency handles, such as Campari.

CEO of the Americas Stefano Zunino is also taking on a newly created role of chief transformation officer of JWT Worldwide, and Susan Kim-Kirkland has been elevated to chief marketing officer of JWT Worldwide. The agency has not had a worldwide CMO in recent years. Kim-Kirkland most recently was president and CEO of JWT Canada, with additional leadership over the network's Chicago operations. Sherri Chambers will continue on as the CMO of JWT New York.

"Over the past year I've been thinking a great deal about how we continue to transform JWT to meet the needs of people in the 21st century and our leadership and how we structure and reimagine the company and the talent," Ingram told Ad Age. "First thing, we need to look at North America and we need hungry, transformative, but humble leadership and Simon Pearce is a fantastic leader."

Pearce joined McGarryBowen in 2015. A spokeswoman from the Denstu Aegis Network agency said in a statement that Pearce "has been a significant player in the resurgence and growth of McGarryBowen U.S."

"There is a succession plan already in place and Simon will be working with us over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition. We are grateful for Simon's many contributions and wish him all the best of success," the statement added.

Ingram says that creativity and innovation are extraordinarily important for the agency and James is the right person to lead New York, which is JWT's headquarters. "He's known here as having a great soul and moral compass and he's adored by people who work for him," says Ingram.

James says he's excited about nurturing the culture and the talent at JWT and continuing his work with Jump/Start, the agency's program to help young creative thinkers from all backgrounds get into the industry.

The new position of chief transformation officer is key for JWT, says Ingram, because the agency needs to change the way it works across the globe so it can be faster and figure out the capabilities it needs.

In the meantime, the discrimination lawsuit filed by JWT Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson claiming, among other things, that former JWT Worldwide CEO Gustavo Martinez made multiple "racist and sexist slurs" is still ongoing. Johnson is still handling communications at JWT and Martinez is still employed by WPP.

When asked how she regards the lawsuit and how it's affecting the agency's culture or morale, Ingram did not directly answer the question. Instead, she said the agency is "obsessive about doing fantastic work" and she has "a responsibility for an extraordinary agency" and her "task is really to grow the talent."

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