DDB Chicago has hired Emma Montgomery as CEO from Leo Burnett Australia, Campaign US has learned.
She will fill the role left vacant by Andrea Diquez, who left in October 2022 to join Gut as global CEO. The position has been vacant since.
She will report to Alex Lubar, global president and chief operating officer. She returns to Chicago after running at Leo Burnett Chicago as CEO and president from 2017 to 2020.
DDB confirmed the new hire with Campaign US after sharing a note with staff. It is expected to discuss the news with staff this afternoon at an all-hands meeting.
The news follows an announcement made earlier on Wednesday that DDB New York will merge with Adam & Eve DDB under newly minted CEO Caroline Winterton, a move the agency hopes will help scale operations in New York while bringing the creative “scrappiness” associated with Adam & Eve, Brim told Campaign US in an interview.
The leadership changes come as DDB faces a period of much change in the North American region, including executive departures and internal pressure that have mounted since the exit of former global CEO Wendy Clark in April 2020.
Clark had left DDB to become global CEO at Dentsu International, where she remained until September 2022. Her role was filled by O'Halloran, who sought to position DDB as a creative shop that drives results by chasing growth in digital and precision marketing.
According to Campaign US’ 2023 Agency Performance Review, despite these efforts, creative work still makes up 65% of DDB’s business in North America.
According to sources, pressure to perform from parent Omnicom led to frustration across the organization, which has persisted.
Since then, DDB has lost the bulk of a North American leadership team it has built up since 2021, including CEO Justin Thomas-Copeland, Darla Price, chief creative officer Britt Nolan and chief production officer Diane Jackson, as well as Diquez. Other departures in recent months include chief data officer Jatinder Singh, DDB New York chief strategy officer Auro Trini Castelli and North America chief strategy officer Eric Zuncic.
As Campaign US reported earlier on Wednesday, chief people officer Natalia Schultz and chief global chief diversity, equity and inclusion Nikki Lamba, are also leaving. Andrew Dauska, CEO of Rogers Townsend is also expected to leave in June, according to sources.
DDB has since replaced some of these vacancies. Thomas Gonsorcik joined as chief strategy officer from VMLY&R in September, Lucia Grillo came on as chief integration officer in 2021, Elaine Purcell joined as chief growth officer in 2021, Pradeep Kumar joined as chief data officer in February and Christine Lane joined as head of innovation and experiences in March. Amana Peters also came on as chief strategy officer in New York in January.
Hiring Montgomery in Chicago aligns with a strategy shift at DDB to dissolve its North American leadership layer and instead have leaders at each of its offices report up to global leadership.
Omnicom did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.