Karina Wilsher named global CEO of Anomaly

Carl Johnson moves to agency group chairman

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Carl Johnson and Karina Wilsher of Anomaly
Carl Johnson and Karina Wilsher of Anomaly Credit: Anomaly

Karina Wilsher, global chief operating officer of 14-year-old MDC shop Anomaly, is climbing up a rung: She was just named the new global CEO and partner of the agency.

Carl Johnson, Anomaly founding partner and current global CEO, becomes chairman of the agency group which includes Anomaly, longform content company Ace and social and cultural change agency Activista. Their new roles are official on Jan. 1, 2019.

Wilsher joined Anomaly New York as CEO in 2011 from Fallon UK, where she was managing director. At Anomaly New York, she led the agency to quintuple profit over the next five years, deepening a focus on organic growth from existing clients and expanding the agency's innovation practice, the agency said in a statement.

She was named global chief operating officer in 2017 — a role in which she has helped expand the company to a network of more than 700 people with seven offices. She leads global accounts including Diageo, Google, Unilever and Sonos.

Anomaly was No. 5 on Ad Age's A-List for 2018, posting an 18 percent revenue spike last year and growing existing business by 50 percent, adding new clients including Diet Coke, PlayStation, Zico, NBC Olympics, Reese's, Smartwater and Carnival Cruise Line.

Wilsher told Ad Age the job shift is a "natural progression" and said she sees one of the tasks at hand as managing a high-gear pace of change in the industry and remaining highly adaptive to that change.

"One of the things we're especially proud of is the very agile, very collaborative global network that we've been building over the last few years," she says. The challenge, though is "How do we make sure that our clients get access to the very best talent, regardless of where they are within the network," so they aren't limited by geography, she says.

MDC Partners seems to be on the forefront of some major change of its own. The agency holding company is currently searching for a new CEO and considering "potential strategic alternatives" that could include the sale of the agency holding company.

"It doesn't impact us," Wilsher says. "We have always operated independently, and I think that's been our success. That doesn't change at all, regardless of the broader context."

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