Like a deck of cards in the hands of an experienced dealer, creative suites across the industry shuffled in 2022. Some agencies saw surprising exoduses while others underwent reorganizations or promoted key players when veterans stepped down. Here we take a look at the biggest agency creative leadership changes of the past year.
The biggest creative suite shuffles of 2022
Felix Richter goes to Mother
The first of several creatives to leave Droga5 in 2022, Co-Chief Creative Officer Felix Richter in February announced he was leaving to become global creative partner at Mother and chief creative officer of the agency's London headquarters. The surprising move was a continuation of 2021’s musical chairs. Richter stepped into the role vacated after the departure of Mother's partners and co-chief creative officers—husband-and-wife creative team Hermeti and Ana Balarin—to Wieden+Kennedy Portland in June 2021. Richter spent 11 years at Droga5, working his way through the ranks from a copyeditor to co-creative chief alongside Co-Chief Creative Officer Tim Gordon. But then…
Tim Gordon leaves for Zulu Alpha Kilo New York
Another Droga5 departure came in the summer when Chief Creative Officer Tim Gordon left to open Zulu Alpha Kilo’s New York office. ZAK had been growing its international footprint and opened an office in Vancouver in February. Gordon, who hadn’t been looking to leave Droga5, admitted it was hard to resist the opportunity to once again grow a team from the ground up. (When he started at Droga5, it was a team of 40 in New York; now, it has around 500 employees.)
David Kolbusz picks Orchard
Droga5 London Chief Creative Officer David Kolbusz stepped away from the Accenture Interactive-owned agency in the spring, taking up the mantle of chief creative officer at New York-based Lightning Orchard (now Orchard). The jump across the pond reunited him with Orchard Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder Laura Janness and chief executive and co-founder Barney Robinson, both of whom he worked with in the past. Before his stint at Droga5, Kolbusz was at Wieden+Kennedy, leading its New York office as executive creative director alongside Jaime Robinson, now co-founder and chief creative officer at Joan.
Alexander Nowak goes to Mother
In another Droga5 departure, Alexander Nowak followed his former creative partner Richter to Mother in early December. A German native, Nowak headed home after almost 15 years in New York to open a new office for the independent agency in Berlin. Now partner and chief creative officer at Mother, Nowak said he was thrilled to be part of the “second coming” of Berlin, which he called the creative capital of Europe.
Hermeti and Ana Balarin move back to London
In perhaps the clearest example of job-hopping whiplash, Hermeti and Ana Balarin relocated in November to head up creative at Wieden+Kennedy’s London office. The move came only six months after the pair left their posts as partners and chief creative officers at Mother London to move to W+K Portland. The Brazilian husband and wife duo filled out W+K London’s leadership team, including President Ryan Fisher and Global and London Chief Strategy Officer Dan Hill. As part of the shuffling, W+K Portland recruited Azsa West, executive creative director of Anomaly Berlin, to join Portland as chief creative officer.
Karen Costello promoted at Deutsch LA
Deutsch LA’s chief creative officer Karen Costello was promoted to creative chair in September—25 years after she first took on the role in 1997. Costello jumped around a bit over the years, putting in stints at Secret Weapon Marketing and The Martin Agency, but she always came back to Deutsch LA, and in 2021 she did it once again. Costello had large shoes to fill, stepping in after creative veteran Pete Favat retired in August after nearly 40 years in the industry.
Menno Kluin joins Ogilvy
Just after taking home a Cannes Lions win as Network of the Year, Ogilvy brought on Denstu’s Menno Kluin as chief creative officer of its New York flagship office. During his time at Denstu, Kluin was U.S. chief creative officer at Dentsu Creative and in charge of 360i, dentsuMB and Isobar’s creative output. During his tenures at 360i and Saatchi & Saatchi, he oversaw award-winning campaigns for clients including Procter & Gamble, JCPenney—including HBO’s Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning “Westworld: The Maze.”
Nick Law to Accenture Interactive
Last December, Ad Age learned of Nick Law’s departure from his role as VP of marcom integration at Apple, but was unsure where he was headed. Just after the new year, he resurfaced at Accenture Interactive as its new global lead for design and creative tech. Prior to Apple, Law served for 17 years at Interpublic Group of Cos.’ R/GA, ultimately as global chief creative officer.
Tom Murphy heads to Wunderman Thompson
Ending one of the industry’s longest-standing creative duos, Tom Murphy left his role as McCann North America Co-Chief Creative Officer alongside Sean Bryan to join Wunderman Thompson as North America creative chief. The pair worked together for more than two decades across several agencies and even created a series of children’s books. Murphy’s new role at Wunderman Thompson brought his career full circle. He began his career at JWT—which merged with Wunderman in 2018—as junior art director 27 years ago.
Ciro Sarmiento goes to Saatchi & Saatchi
In September, Ciro Sarmiento took on the role of executive creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi's New York office. Sarmiento had spent only a year in the public relations pool at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Weber Shandwick as the agency’s first chief creative officer before jumping back into familiar ad agency waters. Before his foray at Weber Shandwick, Sarmiento spent seven years at Dallas-based multicultural agency Dieste, where he served as chief creative officer.
Shannon Washington gets elevated at R/GA
Shannon Washington in December was named U.S. chief creative officer for R/GA's Connected Communications practice, which is the largest practice within its new agency model announced in October. Currently, R/GA’s Connected Communications practice, a division focused on creativity that has a media and technology focus, makes up about 50% of the agency’s business. Earlier this year Washington was part of a documentary called “Black Madison Ave” that featured seven Black executive creative directors dissecting the lack of diverse representation in creative executive roles in the ad industry. Washington said the circle of Black chief creatives in the industry is still very small but is worth noting. “We're all navigating things that our predecessors didn't have to navigate in a lot of ways,” Washington said. “And we're doing it through a cultural lens that wasn't really done before."