After Six-Month Search, BBH North America Hires CEO

Publicis Groupe Shop Poaches Patrick Lafferty of McCann

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Patrick Lafferty
Patrick Lafferty

BBH has appointed Patrick Lafferty to the role of North American CEO, filling a role atop the agency that's been vacant since last September.

The Publicis Groupe-owned agency in fall saw its previous chief, Greg Andersen, depart amid a sizable round of staff cuts.

Mr. Lafferty who most recently was chief operating officer of McCann North America, focused on rebuilding the flagship New York office. The Cornell graduate's background is varied. He joined Leo Burnett in 1995 as an account supervisor, working his way up before moving to the client-side to Discovery Communications. There he was in charge of marketing for the Travel Channel, Military Channel, Science Channel and Discovery Education. He also spent seven years in the United States Army as a Platoon Leader and Company Commander, serving tours in Iraq, Panama and Haiti.

Mr. Lafferty will join BBH this summer and will be based in the New York office. He'll report to Gwyn Jones, group CEO of BBH's micronetwork of agencies, which includes offices in Singapore, Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.

"We've taken our time it's safe to say," Mr. Jones said with regards to the search process during in an interview from London. He noted the shop had the luxury of finding the right person for job because it already had a trio of senior execs in place with John Patroulis (chief creative), Sarah Watson (chief strategy officer) and Emma Cookson (chairman).

The choice of Mr. Lafferty signals a major change in tack when it comes to the CEO spot, as BBH is bringing on someone steeped in account management experience rather than planning experience (which was the expertise of Mr. Lafferty's predecessor Mr. Andersen). BBH also focused on reeling in a candidate with both client-side and agency experience.

"From the outset, we didn't want somebody who's only worked within the industry," Mr. Jones said. "Pat's not from a pure ad background, or a pure New York person, he's bringing a bigger perspective. He's got stuff on his CV that i've not seen on anyone's CV in advertising. He's a proper, grown-up safe pair of hands and he knows how to lead and get things done. And he's grounded and has a calm authority about him."

BBH's stateside operations are on better footing than they were a few months ago. Earlier this year the shop came out on top in a review for Sony Playstation. That resulted in a shift of the creative account to BBH from Deutsch, which had been working on the business for six years.

Now it's up to Mr. Lafferty to steer the agency forward and build on the momentum across BBH's offices in New York and Los Angeles.

"Our challenge in New York is that our brand is in pretty robust health and it's not like we're not an attractive proposition," said Mr. Jones, "but what we haven't done well in the past is organize ourselves to take advantage of opportunities and to scale. Pat will bring rigor and structure."

Said Mr. Lafferty in a statement: "BBH is, and always has been, fiercely passionate about great ideas, ideas that grow clients' businesses. They understand the combined impact of creative, strategic and account excellence. I could not be more thrilled to join this team and to drive growth in North America."

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