After more than 20 years working in the agency world, former Havas Creative North America CEO Paul Marobella has now landed on the brand side as president and chief marketing officer at Republic Brands, a leading producer of rolling papers based in the Chicago area. The company officially announced the appointment last week.
Marobella left his agency position last August, following Havas’ extensive staff cuts during the pandemic and nearly two years after the 2018 controversy tied to the reportedly toxic and polarizing culture of the agency’s Chicago office. During that time, he and then-CCO Jason Peterson faced criticism for appearing in an internal video leaked on social media platform Fishbowl in which Peterson called major agencies BBDO, FCB and Leo Burnett “shitty.” Peterson went on to resign that year.
Marobella tells Ad Age that his departure from the agency last year was not connected to the events two years prior. Of Havas Chicago, where he had also served as CEO, he says “it was one of the most diverse, successful offices in the entire Havas system—and I’m extremely proud of the innovative and inclusive culture my colleagues and I built.”
In the Havas video, Marobella had not contradicted his former colleague’s statement, but today says that “I have always respected FCB, BBDO and Leo Burnett—I think they're great agencies creating tremendous work led by excellent people. Many of the individuals leading these shops are my close friends. The advertising industry has always had an undercurrent of competition, mostly friendly, and I’ve never had any intention of offending these agencies and respect the transformative work they’ve created.”
Since his exit, Marobella has spent time investing in passion products including commercial real estate development for a chain of luxury health and wellness centers, called Honeycomb, and developing a trademarked lifestyle brand, Game Seven Ventures. He also began work in February 2020 on the advisory committee for the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation and as of September of last year has been part of the Diversity and Inclusion Council of the NHL.
The 1998 Ad Age “Best and Brightest Strategist” winner tells Ad Age that he was first connected to Republic Brands through an unusual connection with Havas. Over a year ago, Havas CEO Yannick Bolloré introduced Marobella to Republic Brands CEO Donald Levin, who Bolloré knew because his family once owned some of the rolling papers now in the Republic repertoire. In fact, the “B” in Republic’s “OCB” rolling paper stands for Bolloré.
After his stint in private equity, Marobella joined Levin on a collaboration with rapper Birdman’s $TUNNA brand to create the world’s first “champagne papers,” luxury paper sourced from Champagne, France. He had also worked on the company’s recent rebrand from Republic Tobacco to Republic Brands. The company comprises over 2000 products across 24 brands, all of which are made in-house. Its new name reflects how the company is channeling its 200-year-legacy in the tobacco world to the booming cannabis industry.
"At a time when the category is growing 20, 30, 40% a year because of the legalization track, it's really kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Marobella says of his new gig.
Ad Age recently spoke with Marobella about his new role at Republic: