4A's Set to Name Nancy Hill President-CEO

Former Lowe, BBDO Exec to Succeed O. Burtch Drake at Ad Trade Group

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The American Association of Advertising Agencies is set to name Nancy Hill, a former executive at Lowe Worldwide and BBDO, as its next president-CEO, according to an executive familiar with the situation.
Nancy Hill
Nancy Hill

The decision is being described as a fait accompli, though it still needs the approval of the 4A's board, which could come as soon as next week. Ms. Hill would be the first woman to hold the CEO job at the 4A's, the agency business' largest trade group. She will succeed O. Burtch Drake, who has run the 91-year-old organization since 1994.

Ms. Hill couldn't immediately be reached for comment. When reached for comment Mr. Drake said there would be no announcement until the board of directors makes a decision next week. Asked whether the selection committee is recommending Ms. Hill, he said, "No comment."

The appointment follows a long search by Mr. Drake and a committee made up of 4A's board members and the executive-recruitment firm Gilbert Taney Farley.

If approved, Ms. Hill will take on an important symbolic role at a challenging time for the ad business. Many of the 4A's member agencies born during the relatively straightforward TV-dominated era are now trying to make themselves over for a more complex, digital world. The largest ad agencies in particular are fending off challenges from smaller, nimble rivals as well as digital specialists. The 4A's under Mr. Drake has often been criticized as being slow to react to these issues.

There are also other challenges. In recent years, Madison Avenue has been criticized for not doing enough to foster diverse workplaces. At the same time as Ms. Hill will be dealing with those knotty issues, she'll have to continue the 4A's generally well-regarded lobbying operations and maintain good relations with the association's many, many small- and midsized shops that have been less affected by the changes sweeping the media world.

Ms. Hill's last post was as North American CEO of Lowe Worldwide, the struggling Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned network. She left last August after little more than a year on the job. Prior to that, she ran the Visa account for Omnicom Group's BBDO and worked at Interpublic's Hill Holliday.

Mr. Drake was named head of the 4A's in February 1994, succeeding John O'Toole, who was the trade group's president for four years. Prior to taking over the 4A's presidency in 1994, Mr. Drake worked as the organization's exec VP-chief operating officer.

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Contributing: Megan McIlroy
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