Omnicom has recruited Kathleen Saxton, a top headhunter in the UK and the global ad industry for more than a decade, to be the US agency group’s first chief marketing officer.
The creation of the CMO role is the latest sign that Omnicom wants to connect all its capabilities at the centre of the holding company and elevate the parent company brand globally.
Omnicom has operated a more hands-off, federated approach to running its agencies compared with some of its main rivals, such as WPP and Publicis Groupe, but there has been a growing trend for clients to ask for an integrated holding company solution in recent years.
Saxton has been managing director of EMEA and global talent advisory for MediaLink, the media consulting firm, since September 2020, where her responsibilities included strategic consulting, agency selection, talent advisory, marketing and sales.
Previously she was founder and chief executive of The Lighthouse Company, an executive search firm, which she founded in 2009 and closed in summer 2020, during the depths of the first coronavirus lockdown.
She was also well known in London as co-founder of Advertising Week Europe, the annual festival, which was originally set up in New York by Matt Scheckner.
Saxton, who is British, will start at Omnicom on 1 January and is expected to move from London to New York later in 2023. She brings experience of both media and creative agencies as she worked earlier in her career at Omnicom-owned PHD and at Saatchi & Saatchi.
Omnicom said: “Saxton will be responsible for marketing Omnicom’s award-winning capabilities and its omni-channel solutions for global enterprise clients, building on the company’s success in this area.”
Omnicom’s recent integrated global wins have included Phillips and Mercedes-Benz.
Daryl Simm, the president and chief operating officer of Omnicom, said: “Kathleen steps into this role with a deep understanding of the solutions that modern global clients want in order to succeed in a transformed consumer world. Her proven marketing skills will elevate our incredible agency talent and our connected client solutions that achieve better business results.”
Saxton said: “With its iconic and creative agency networks and future-looking disciplines, Omnicom has established itself as a leader for integrated client solutions. I am eager to work alongside an incredible team to orchestrate its vast capabilities to best serve clients.”
More clients are asking for a holding company solution
Saxton’s appointment follows another significant job move by Omnicom, when it promoted Andrea Lennon to be chief client officer at the holding company level earlier this month. The pair are expected to work closely together.
A person familiar with Omnicom’s thinking said the new roles were created in response to more clients coming to the holding company for large pitches and asking for connected services at an enterprise level.
John Wren, the chief executive of Omnicom since 1997, suggested at its recent Q3 results that as “the path from marketer to consumer is becoming exceedingly complex”, large agency groups can benefit because they can be a “trusted advisor to drive success for our clients”.
Omnicom increased revenues 7.5% on an organic basis in the last quarter and has about 72,000 staff, according to its most recent annual report.
Omnicom is following WPP and Publicis Groupe, both of which appointed chief marketing officers in recent years to boost their parent company brand, with the aim of attracting clients and talent.
Industry observers also noted how some of Omnicom’s rivals had a much more visible presence at Cannes Lions, the ad industry's most important global festival, which took place in June 2022 as an in-person event for the first time in three years.
Both WPP and Dentsu rented large beach spaces for its agencies to talk to clients and media owners, whereas Omnicom had only a single, relatively small space for all of its agencies, which include BBDO, DDB, OMD and PHD.
Michael Kassan, the founder and chief executive of MediaLink, which was sold by Ascential, the owner of Cannes Lions, to talent agency UTA last year, praised Saxton.
“I am very supportive of Kathleen and the exciting career move this is,” Kassan said. “Of course, I am sad to see her go. She has built an amazing team in executive search and the current leadership will continue. Since we've become part of UTA, we're more in the talent business than we've ever been."
MediaLink is looking to fill the vacancy left by Saxton and it is understood the company could appoint two different people to run EMEA and to oversee global executive search.