The 15 most notable creative shuffles of 2020
BBDO parts ways with top talents, and a new agency emerges
The layoffs of BBDO New York Chief Creative Officer Greg Hahn and Exec VP, Director of Integrated Production Dave Rolfe from their former agency marked one of the most shocking departure announcements of the year. The news came just days after Omnicom Chairman-CEO John Wren warned that cuts were imminent across the holding company’s agencies. Both Hahn and Rolfe were highly celebrated creative talents and their cuts showed that no execs were untouchable during the pandemic. Less than two months after, Hahn reemerged at the helm of a new agency, Mischief @ No Fixed Address, which he co-founded as a U.S. offshoot of independent Canadian agency No Fixed Address. Since then, Hahn’s shop has gone on to debut campaigns for Kraft Heinz, OKCupid and wearable tech brand Oura, its big first account win.
The center of gravity shifts at Wieden+Kennedy
In October, Wieden+Kennedy announced major shifts in its leadership ranks come Jan. 1. Both New York Executive Creative Director Karl Lieberman and Managing Director Neal Arthur will move into roles overseeing the entire eight-office global agency, alongside Global Chief Creative Officer Colleen DeCourcy, who will serve as the agency’s sole president. Former Co-President Tom Blessington will shift into the role of chairman following the retirement of Dave Luhr at the end of 2020. The announcement seems to indicate that the agency, which has long counted Portland as its headquarters, is shifting its center of gravity to the New York office, which has seen major account wins including McDonald's, Ford and Michelob Ultra as well as notable creative campaigns (Bud Light's "Dilly Dilly," OKCupid's "DTF" and The Atlantic's "Question Your Answers") under Lieberman and Arthur.
Alex Bogusky leaves CPB—again; agency appoints a new creative chief
In August 2018, the industry was atwitter when CPB announced that its longtime creative leader and co-founder, Alex Bogusky, who had left the shop in 2010, would be coming back as chief creative engineer. Many anticipated his return would revitalize not just the agency but the industry as a whole; during CPB’s golden years under Bogusky’s leadership the agency had introduced new ways of thinking and working that inspired advertising at large. But fewer than 18 months after he walked back into the shop, he was walking out once again. In January, the agency announced that Bogusky would be transitioning out of his role, citing his desire to reprioritize and focus more on his family. This month, the agency tapped Jorge Calleja, Activision Blizzard VP of marketing and executive creative director of esports—and a vet of agencies, including TBWA Media Arts Lab, Deutsch, Martin and Wieden+Kennedy—to become its new chief creative officer, and announced plans to move its headquarters from Boulder to Denver in 2021.
The Martin Agency and Deutsch L.A.
In August, The Martin Agency Chief Creative Officer Karen Costello returned to Deutsch L.A. to step into the role as chief creative officer. Costello had taken the top creative post at the Virginia agency in 2017, following the controversial departure of Joe Alexander, who left after sexual harassment allegations that eventually led to a number of high-profile lawsuits. Costello’s new post marked her third stint at Deutsch—she had been one of the shop’s first hires in 1997 and, after a short run at Secret Weapon Marketing in 2004, she returned to the agency in 2005.
Following Costello’s departure, Martin named Danny Robinson as its new chief creative. Robinson had been at the agency in 2004 and is credited with steering the agency’s largest account win in history—Walmart. He also made history when he become the company’s first chief client officer in 2018, which also made him the shop’s first African-American to join its C-suite.
Keith Cartwright opens WPP-backed shop
After departing his role as executive creative director at 72andSunny last December, Keith Cartwright returned at the helm of a new shop bearing his name, Cartwright. The agency is backed by WPP and opened with just 20 on staff, but it’s able to bolster its offerings through a partnership with the holding company’s Grey Group global creative network. Two months after opening, the company added to its leadership bench with the appointments of top execs from 72andSunny, Anomaly and Grey. Former 72andSunny Executive Strategy Director John Graham joined as head of strategy; former head of broadcast production at Anomaly Andrew Loevenguth came on board as head of integrated production; and former Grey Senior VP, Account Director Marie Massat joined as head of brand. The agency went on to create major spots for Procter & Gamble and the National Basketball Association.
MullenLowe U.S. loses its creative chief
In May, just a month after MullenLowe announced layoffs of about 10 percent of its staff, the agency said farewell to its U.S. Chief Creative Officer, Mark Wenneker. He exited at a moment that mirrored when he entered the shop: he had joined in 2008 mid-recession and went on to lead the agency on notable account wins and memorable campaigns for clients including Zappos, JetBlue, Royal Caribbean, Google and Whole Foods, among others. In 2013 he relocated from the agency’s Boston HQ to help open its West Coast office to support Acura, but the shop went on to build up its roster to include more than a dozen clients.
RPA's Jason Sperling heads to Facebook Reality Labs
In September, RPA VP, Creative Development Jason Sperling, who had led the agency’s creative for Honda North America and a number of other global clients, departed the agency after nearly a decade to become an executive creative director at Facebook Reality Labs, the brand’s division dedicated to development of augmented and virtual reality technologies. Under his watch, RPA developed many high-profile campaigns for Honda, including the Super Bowl yearbook-themed ad starring Steve Carell and Viola Davis and the “Project Drive-In” campaign that tried to save struggling drive-in theaters around the country. Sperling anticipated that his new role would recall his days working on Apple, “where we felt like we were involved in things that were changing the world,” he told Ad Age. Prior to RPA he had worked at TBWA/Media Arts Lab and was one of the creatives behind the award-winning “Mac vs. PC” campaign.
John Maxham leaves DDB Chicago for Laughlin Constable
After six years as DDB Chicago's creative chief, John Maxham departed the agency in February to become chief creative officer at independent agency Laughlin Constable. He replaced Lisa Bennett, who had departed the post after serving for only a year. At DDB, Maxham had helped to oversee teams behind notable campaigns including Super Bowl efforts like Skittles’ “Broadway the Rainbow” (the real-life show that debuted on game day), Jeep’s “Jurassic Park”-themed ad starring Jeff Goldblum and McDonald’s “Lovin’ the Super Bowl” push.
TBD Closes, BBH New York gets a new chief creative officer
In April, San Francisco independent agency TBD closed its doors after fewer than three years in business, citing the typical pressures faced by small agencies exacerbated by pressures of the pandemic. The agency was founded during a startup boom in 2017 by Chief Creative Officer Rafael Rizuto, CEO Jordan Warren and former IDEO exec Virginia Wang (who left the following year to become an independent consultant and went on to create campaigns for Stubhub, the Ad Council and Havaianas). Rizuto immediately went on to become the chief creative officer at BBH New York, replacing Gerard Caputo, who moved to Wieden+Kennedy New York to become a creative director there.
Code and Theory gets its first chief creative
In March, former Wunderman Thompson Executive Creative Director Amy Carvajal became the first chief creative officer at Stagwell Group digital and creative shop Code and Theory. Carvajal had spent only a few days working out of the agency’s New York office when the company mandated a pandemic work-from-home policy. She’s responsible for leading creative across all six of Code and Theory’s offices, which also has locations in San Francisco, London and Manila.
McCann bolsters creative bench
Former BSSP Chief Creative Officer Matthew Curry switched coasts in January to become deputy chief creative officer at McCann New York. He had left his previous post in 2019 after serving for only about a year. His appointment came alongside a number of promotions and additions to the agency’s creative leadership bench, including VP and Executive Creative Director Shayne Millington moving to global Executive Creative Director; Global Creative Director Holly Hessler moving to exec creative director and Creative Directors Dominick Baccollo and Jason Ashlock shifting to group creative directors. Cristina Reina and Kathleen O’Brien also joined as executive creative director and Camilla Flesche Kristiansen joined as design director. In October, the agency announced further shifts that included the departure of North American Chief Creative Officer Eric Silver. New York Co-Chief Creative Officers Sean Bryan and Tom Murphy stepped up to take over those duties.
Gerry Graf and Maxi Itzkoff re-emerge with a new consultancy
In October 2020, two celebrated creative leaders who said goodbyes to their main gigs in 2019 reappeared on the scene with a new global consultancy. Gerry Graf, founder of the now-shuttered independent shop Barton F. Graf, and Maxi Itzkoff, former chief creative officer at the WPP-owned Santo, teamed up to open Slap Global, which they describe as a “business accelerator fueled by creativity” that brings together communications, consulting, data and design in order to help solve clients’ business problems from the ground up. The company, with staff based in Buenos Aires, New York and Madrid, was born of the pandemic—early on, the founders realized that working together, from different parts of the globe, could be sustainable and allow them to hand-pick and bring together senior-level talent, no matter where they are based. “It doesn’t make a difference if you’re in New York City or Madrid,” Graf told Ad Age. “All of a sudden you can go find talent anywhere on the planet, not just in your region. There’s no excuse to be anything but diverse anymore.”
72andSunny moves into a new era of creative leadership
At the beginning of December, 72andSunny placed its creative reins in the hands of newly appointed Chief Creative Officers Matt Murphy and Carlo Cavallone as well as a newly created council of creative leaders based in the company’s five offices around the globe. Co-Founders John Boiler and Glenn Cole remain in creative chair roles, but in effect, have entrusted the council to ensure the excellence and effectiveness of the agency’s overall creative output. The new setup introduces a democratized and more diverse creative leadership structure that allows the multiple offices to work as “one agency,” an idea that 72 was able to prove out during the pandemic, with notable work on clients including Adobe, Coca-Cola, the NFL, Etsy, Pinterest and more.
Dan Lucey becomes Havas New York’s new creative leader
Following the departure of its New York Chief Creative Officer Harry Bernstein in October, Havas New York tapped independent agency Joan's Executive Creative Director Dan Lucey to be its new creative honcho. Lucey said one of his main goals will be to improve the agency’s diversity. Alongside founders Jaime Robinson and Lisa Clunie, he had been a key force in Joan’s recent success—the shop was named one of Ad Age’s 2020 Small Agencies of the Year. Prior to that he had served as an ECD at BBDO New York, where he led notable campaigns for Foot Locker, Guinness and more. Joan went on to appoint Lauren Costa, an alum of Droga5, Ogilvy and Wieden+Kennedy, as its new ECD.
Ronald Ng jumps to McCann Worldgroup’s MRM
After a celebrated run at Isobar, the agency’s Global Chief Creative Officer Ronald Ng moved to McCann Worldgroup's MRM this month to serve in the same post. He joined Isobar in 2018, and the agency went on to see its most successful year at the Cannes International Lions Festival of Creativity in 2019, earning honors for campaigns including KFC’s “Pocket Store” that turned consumers into mini franchisees via WeChat. Prior to that, Ng had also been the global creative chief at Digitas, and under his tenure the agency conceived celebrated campaigns such as Whirlpool’s “Care Counts,” which earned the Cannes Lions Creative Data Grand Prix.