Sharon Napier is stepping down as the chief executive of the Rochester, New York-based agency she founded 15 years ago, Partners & Napier, to assume the role of chair and founder. She has named President Courtney Cotrupe as her successor, while bringing on Rob Kottkamp as chief creative officer to lead the agency's daily operations. The changes take effect immediately.
Napier tells Ad Age that the shifts are reflective of the agency "leading our change instead of reacting to it" and setting it up for "long-term success," although she asserts that her role as chair and founder will still be an active one. She says that to prepare Partners & Napier for decades to come, she had to make the "decisions that are absolutely right for the agency, moving egos aside, putting the right people in the right places at the right time. As a founder, I did not make this decision lightly."
Napier says Cotrupe "is the right leader for today and for the future," noting how she knows the agency "inside and out," having been with it since its founding. "We call Courtney one of the original brave 40 [agency employees]," Napier adds. "I also love that we are shattering any myth that women can't get along because we've been doing it for a very long time."
Cotrupe joined Partners & Napier in 2003 as an account director. She was appointed managing director in 2015 before being elevated to president in 2017. Cotrupe began her career as an account executive for WPP's Ogilvy, overseeing the Kraft Foods, Kodak and National Eating Disorder Association businesses.
Kottkamp was most recently a senior VP and group creative director at Interpublic Group of Cos.' MullenLowe in Boston, where he oversaw a $30 million book of business spanning clients such as Royal Caribbean, Google Cloud and U.S. Cellular. Kottkamp has also spent time at Arnold Worlwide and is credited for his work on the anti-smoking Truth campaign. He replaces Jeff Gabel, a founding partner of Partners & Napier, who has been serving as a part-time chief creative officer for the agency for the past several years.
Cotrupe says new leadership will look to further integrate the agency's expanding capabilities. Partners & Napier has been offering media planning services to clients for the past two years but recently bolstered the practice with the formation of a 10-person media buying and planning team. The agency also formed what it calls an "integration team" comprised of seven strategists and executives in media, account leadership, creative and project management to fuel the process.
"Integration is so critical today, both from an agency perspective and for the consumer to optimize their brand experience," Cotrupe says.
Partners & Napier started out as a 40-person operation in Rochester and was purchased by Project Worldwide in 2010. Today, the agency houses a team of about 175 people and works with clients such as Constellation Brands, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Highmark Health, Delta Vacation and Xerox. According to the agency, Partners & Napier added Instant Pot, Rakuten, Conduent, Pyrex, The Strong National Museum of Play and CoreLife Eatery to its roster of clients this year.
In her new role Napier says she will be primarily focused on deepening client relationships, cultivating talent and further leveraging the agency's "voice" in the industry. "From day one, there were some really interesting principles for me and my original partners and one was to build a nationally-recognized agency from Rochester, New York," Napier says. "Even though there were a ton of naysayers saying we couldn't do it, I'm really proud that we did do it."