Robert Sawatzky
Dec 11, 2018

The top 10 exits and entrances of 2018

What a year it's been for agency leadership changes.

The top 10 exits and entrances of 2018

It’s an old metaphor, but a good one: the agency revolving door. One leaves, another enters. And the work goes on and the door keeps turning. This pattern, however, repeated at such a frenetic level in 2018 that it’s a shame one couldn’t attach a turbine to those revolving doors—you could power a small city. This year there was no room in a top 10 listicle to cover-off all the important moves in APAC, so we’re cheating a bit by lumping them in categories. Still, many have been left behind.

1. The king dethroned
Out: Martin Sorrell
Promoted: Mark Read

Let’s start at the top shall we? The dramatic saga of power, intrigue, sex, money and betrayal at the top of WPP had all the hallmarks of a good Game of Thrones episode (perhaps minus the murder). After being accused of personal misconduct using company funds (and later accused of paying a sex worker with WPP money) which Sorrell has not admitted to and which has not been proven, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell last April abruptly left the company he founded 33 years ago.

WPP’s joint-CEOs Mark Read and Andrew Scott then ran the company as interim leaders until early September, when Read, the former Wunderman chief, was officially named CEO.

While the repercussions continue to play out throughout WPP, it’s Sorrell’s immediate return to the industry as the leader of newly formed S4 Capital that will continue to make waves. Here in Asia, former Xaxis CEO Michel de Rijk jumped ship from his most recent role as APAC head of GroupM’s [m]Platform into Sorrell’s waiting S4 speedboat, becoming its new APAC CEO.

2. Ogilvy’s creative carousel
Out: Tham Khai Meng, Graham Fink, Paul Heath, David Mayo
Promoted: Piyush Pandey

While Ogilvy has not yet been forced to dance with another WPP agency partner, the creative powerhouse has been busting plenty of (people) moves this year. Several long-serving veterans have been tripped up in the process.

The most shocking was the firing of worldwide co-chairman and chief creative officer Tham Kai Meng in July, for breaching the company’s behaviour code after internal complaints and an investigation. It took Ogilvy several months to finally name his replacement last week, when India’s Piyush Pandey was elevated to the post. 

But there have been several other notable exits from Ogilvy in Asia this year, including China’s chief creative Graham Fink in January, APAC chairman Paul Heath in March, and Malaysia CEO David Mayo in August.

3. Time’s Up in India
Out: Kartik Iyear, Praveen Das, Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Dinesh Swamy, Ishrath Nawaz, Anirban Das Blah, Ashish Patil
In: Hopefully more respect for female colleagues

The #MeToo movement took a while to reach India, but when it did this October, it hit the ad agencies like a storm. Boorish behaviour and harassment of female colleagues and subordinates that was once tolerated or covered up was now being brought to light, and continues to be. Some cases are still under investigation, but already, there have been some swift decisions.

Dentsu Aegis was among the first to dismiss four male employees after investigations. Three were from Happy Mcgarrybowen: CEO Kartik Iyer, MD Praveen Das and senior creative director Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, while iProspect national creative director Dinesh Swamy was also let go. Over at Publicis India, ECD Ishrath Nawaz was asked to leave following claims of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, Kwan's founder Anirban Das Blah was also asked to leave his own company after four women accused him of sexual misconduct. YRF has parted ways with business head Ashish Patil and several others are on leave pending ongoing investigations.

4. OMG! It’s a big Asia shakeup
Out: Cheuk Chiang, Doug Pearce, Susana Tsui (Serge Dumont)
Promoted: Tony Harradine
In: James Hawkins

There was a real changing of the guard at Omnicom Media Group. The departure of APAC CEO Cheuk Chiang in April led to the promotion of OMG stalwart chief investment officer Tony Harradine. 

Earlier that year, PHD’s APAC chief Susana Tsui had packed her belongings and headed north to Shanghai to become Dentsu Aegis Network’s new China CEO, opening up a spot for OMG to return DAN the favour by luring Dentsu X’s Asia-Pacific chief, James Hawkins, over to lead PHD.

Meanwhile in China, OMG parted ways with its long-serving chief Doug Pearce and parent holding company Omnicom retired its Asia-Pacific chairman Serge Dumont.

5. New marks for Spencer
Out: McCann & Spencer
In: M&C Saatchi Spencer

Hong Kong creative Spencer Wong just loves to have his name in lights. We don't really know which party made the first move, but McCann announced it would be reincorporating its ‘McCann & Spencer’ division back into McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong in August, just as Wong decided to pursue other interests. Those interests obviously included putting his mark on a new agency bearing his name and...voila! M&C Saatchi Spencer was born.

6. Carat and stick
Out: Kevin Walsh
In: Jonathan Chadwick

January began with a bite taken out of Carat, with APAC CEO Kevin Walsh very suddenly stepping down from his post by “mutual agreement” over a business decision that has not publicly come to light.  Walsh’s sudden removal meant it was not until June that his successor Jonathan Chadwick of Maxus Australia was brought in to replace him. In between this meant that Sean O’Brien played a familiar role of stepping-in to keep the garden growing in the interim.

7. No room in the acronym
Out: Chris Foster
Promoted: Tripti Lochan & Yi-Chung Tay

When WPP announced its decision to merge VML with Y&R, it decided the new agency would be run by co-CEOs in Asia. Phew! Peace in the kingdom. Oh wait. Unfortunately for Y&R’s APAC president Chris Foster, both of those co-CEOs, Tripti Lochan and Yi Chung Tay, would come from VML. While Foster had just relocated to Asia a year earlier and had only recently outlined his plans for Y&R Asia to Campaign, we understand this shuffle was actually less awkward than it sounds, and Foster played an active role in planning for the merger.

8. IPG Mediabrands: All the men’s presidents
Promoted: Will Anstee, Kasper Aakerlund
Hired: Ben Poole
Out: Scott McBride

IPG Mediabrands has been making more waves lately, and with that has come some rocking of boats and new captains at the wheel. To help relieve the load on the APAC CEO Leigh Terry, the media group created new roles for APAC agency presidents this year. Chief growth officer Will Anstee was named Initiative president in February, while Kasper Aakerlund was relocated from Hong Kong to Singapore to become president of UM.

Reprise's launch as a new full-service digital and performance agency brought some changes too.  Ben Poole was brought over from MEC UK to lead Reprise as managing director while IPG's chief digital officer, Scott McBride, left the company.

9. Baden farewell
Out: Isobar
In: Publicis Groupe

When Jane Lin-Baden stepped down as Isobar’s Asia-Pacific CEO in June to “pursue other perspectives” it felt like another shoe was yet to drop. Eventually, Lin-Baden did announce a new fit, as APAC managing partner of Publicis Groupe, where she will support the heavily taxed Loris Nold, who has been head of all things APAC and MEA. Lin-Baden will remain based in Shanghai.

10. R/GA: Moving on to Greenberg pastures
Out: Jim Moffatt
In: Tuomas Peltoniemi

In a year where R/GA founder Bob Greenberg handed over the reins of CEO, the agency’s APAC managing director Jim Moffatt left in September after four years to join Engine Group as CEO for Europe and Asia-Pacific. A couple of weeks ago R/GA filled that void, luring TBWA’s Tuomas Peltoniemi to be the new EVP and managing director for APAC.

Campaign Asia

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