Karina Wilsher, Anomaly's next global CEO, on the Ad Lib podcast

Wilsher discusses the agency's commitment to IP (and its Dosist cannabis pen), the struggles of its parent company and the Brexit 'shitshow'

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After eight years at Anomaly, partner Karina Wilsher will be assuming the global CEO title at the agency. Currently the global chief operating officer, Wilsher has long been groomed for the new role and will assume the chief executive position in January. Carl Johnson, the current global CEO, will become chairman of the agency group.

Wilsher sat down with the Ad Lib podcast to discuss what her new role means for herself and Anomaly, the Ad Age 2017 Agency of the Year. True to its name, the 14-year-old shop is an outlier in its space, a non-traditional agency that has sought to future-proof itself by creating its own business ventures and products.

"When we set up the company 14 years ago we recognized there was a better way to create an agency that was probably fit for purpose and more future-proofed," says Wilsher. "Most agencies have got a legacy model where they pretty much have a predetermined answer or channel or a particular discipline to sell to the client. Our model is completely agnostic."

Wilsher unpacks the agency's bent towards IP, which has most notably taken form in the lip balm eos and the legal cannabis pen Dosist, both of which Anomaly had a hand in creating.

"Dosist is the most recent expression and proof of concept of one of the founding principles of Anomaly, which is a commitment to IP," she says. "It trains a different muscle. If we are marketeers and innovators ourselves, we are creating different experiences and different knowledge bases within the agency and the benefits of that is something we pass on to our other clients."

While Anomaly is well positioned in the marketplace, it's been a rough quarter for the holding company that owns it. MDC Partners is currently searching for new leadership — CEO Scott Kauffman is stepping down at the end of the year — and the company is exploring strategic options, including the possibility of a sale.

Wilsher declined to elaborate on specifics around what that means for her agency.

"I can only talk for Anomaly," she says. "We have always run Anomaly very independently and that's why we have always been successful. And therefore we focus on ourselves and delivering and performing and everything else candidly is a distraction. Business as usual for us. It doesn't really impact us."

A veteran also of the Publicis Groupe agency Fallon, Wilsher has been for the last year based in London, where she grew up. As such, one topic of particular interest to her is Brexit and its impact on Anomaly's clients.

"It's a shitshow, right?" she says. "It is relatively chaotic from a political standpoint. From a commercial and a client standpoint there is just an increased level of uncertainty."

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast for that, and for more on Anomaly in 2019.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Wilsher as a "founding partner" who has been with the agency 14 years. She is, in fact, a partner who has been with Anomaly for eight years. Ad Age regrets the error. An earlier version of this article

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