Robert Sawatzky
Dec 18, 2020

Top exits and entrances of 2020

YEAR IN REVIEW: Our annual recap of who strode through the doors to new corner offices and who slipped out the exits.

Top exits and entrances of 2020
In the year of Covid, amid all the disruption and cost cutting, our industry sadly did indeed see many layoffs, including some key personnel being escorted to other pastures. Yet at the higher ranks, we seemed to see fewer abrupt departures than in 2019, which was a particularly ripe vintage for executive shakeups in Asia-Pacific.

So this year, our list is divided into a countdown of big global CEO switcheroos, which in all but one case involved replacing one white dude for another, and another section tracking comings and goings in APAC.

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2020: The year in review


5. Diamonds aren't forever
Out: Harris Diamond
Promoted: Bill Kolb

McCann chairman and CEO Harris Diamond will retire at the end of the year, parent company IPG announced in October. He will be succeeded by McCann Worldgroup global COO Bill Kolb, who has been with the agency since 2000. In an exit interview with Campaign, Diamond said he wants to spend time skiing in Utah if the pandemic eases, before potentially looking at better ways to deliver healthcare. 

4. In the Main
Out: John Seifert
In: Andy Main 

In April, Ogilvy Worldwide CEO John Seifert sent an email to staff explaining he was stepping down from his role at the agency after working at the WPP agency for 41 years. Two months later, Ogilvy nabbed Andy Main, global head of Deloitte Digital and a principal at Deloitte Consulting, to be its next chief executive. Bringing in an outsider of Main's stature appeared to be high on WPP CEO Mark Read's agenda as he led the search, saying: "I was looking for someone who could have respect for Ogilvy's creative business but also someone who could develop a future vision to help transform Ogilvy's clients' businesses."

3. Roth's child
Out: Michael Roth
Promoted: Philippe Krakowsky

Michael Roth has been considered a father figure to many at IPG after leading its family of agencies as executive chairman and CEO for the past 16 years. But after signalling succession planning was underway for the past couple of years, the holding company finally announced in October that IPG's next generation will be led by EVP and COO Philippe Krakowsky, effective January 1. Himself an 18-year IPG executive, Krakowsky has waited patiently for the keys to daddy's car. A year earlier Roth told Campaign Asia-Pacific: "The most important aspect for a leader of a global company like IPG is to understand people, and certainly Philippe has a tremendous relationship with all of our people."

2. Wendy's fast feud
Out: Wendy Clark at DDB
In: Wendy Clark at Dentsu International

In what was not an April fool but nonetheless surprised everyone, Dentsu sprung the spring news that it had poached Wendy Clark, global chief executive of DDB, to be global chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network (later renamed Dentsu International) in what the company described as a "pivotal hire". Recruiting Clark, a former senior marketer at Coca-Cola and AT&T, from the Omnicom advertising network was a significant coup for Dentsu, whose global reputation had been battered by a slew of restructurings and executive exits in 2019. Omnicom CEO John Wren, however, didn’t take kindly to the fast move Clark had pulled, signalling the tiff to investors on a earnings call, saying: "We were a bit shocked and put off when Wendy Clark decided that she was going to move on in the middle of a crisis."

1. In loo of the incident
Out: Nick Emery
Promoted: Adam Gerhart

Yes, we literally can’t help indulging in bathroom humour here since that was exactly what was behind the swift kick to the derriere of Nick Emery as global CEO of Mindshare. The long-serving Mindshare boss, who became global chief executive in 2012, was on a regular video call with more than a dozen senior members of his executive committee in October. Campaign understands Emery said at one point that he needed a pee and fatefully took his device into the office toilet as a joke, telling people they could hang up if they wanted. The exact details of what happened next, or which of those people on the video call saw what unfolded, are unclear. But by the middle of the following week, the company had decided to dismiss Emery. Last week, the GroupM media agency elevated its US CEO Adam Gerhart to the role of global chief. 



5. The 3 must-get-(marke)teers for OMG China

Promoted: Claudine Kwek
In: Connie Chan
Out: Anna Chitty

Omnicom's media agencies in China have seen a fair bit of slicing and dicing this year, with big client departures (Unilever - PHD; McDonald's - OMD) necessitating some retooling and capturing of new clients like SAIC Volkswagen and Daimler. The three leaders tasked with making that happen this year all had different stories to tell. Claudine Kwek, who spent the previous year sharpening blades and trimming the fat to make the agencies run more efficiently as COO of OMG, was rewarded with a promotion to CEO in February, filling the role last held by Doug Pearce. Like Kwek, Connie Chan was brought in from WPP to join the troupe in its mission from July onwards, taking up the role of OMD CEO left vacant by Aaron Wild the year prior. At PHD, however, Campaign learned that CEO Anna Chitty will depart this coming February, signalling the hunt for a new companion to complete the trio. 

4. And all that Chaz
Out: Charles Wigley

After 20 years in Asia and 24 with the agency overall, BBH announced in June that Charles Wigley was exiting the agency and returning to the UK. Known universally as 'Chaz', Wigley joined BBH in Singapore in 2001 and became chairman in 2005. The move is purely personal, Wigley told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "I started talking to global a year or so ago about making the move." As he left, Chaz shared his top 20 favourite spots with us, revealing a penchant for Johnnie Walker ads. 

3. Just four men
Starting over: David Mayo, Matt Cullen, Gary Tranter and Henry Gomez

Like the haircare product that promises guys a mini-makeover in a bottle, these four men are aiming to remake their careers by reinventing data research as a quantitive-data audience agency called Audience DNA. While CEO Henry Gomez has been building the shop since 2017, he was joined this year by creative admen like Ogilvy veteran David Mayo and Arcade founders Gary Tranter and Matt Cullen. But the quartet's launch generated more attention than it bargained for after their leadership photo-shoot generated a snapshot that was pilloried by netizens, who considered their poses to be overtly masculine 'hero' shots.

In a LinkedIn post, Tranter later explained the practical circumstances around the shoot, which had no intention to postion male heroes but rather to get camera-shy guys in front of a black backdrop that could be stitched together. "Perhaps we should forgo the petty pot-shots and smug tweets in favour of support for each other during these difficult times," Tranter wrote in the post, generating much support from adland. "Perhaps we should come together as an industry and direct our energy to trying to help, rather than hurt each other."

2. Dentsumcgarrybowenpacksalottogether
Promoted: Merlee Jayme, Jean Lin (also Keita Ishikawa, Tammy Sheu)

In May, Dentsu Aegis Network (before being renamed Dentsu International) essentially rolled all its creative agencies outside of Japan into one big global creative agency called Dentsumcgarrybowen with more than 3,000 staff working in 33 offices across 24 markets.

This meant key leadership changes in this region as well. Merlee Jayme, chair and chief creative officer at Dentsu JaymeSyfu in the Philippines, was made global co-president of the new operation, reporting to Jean Lin, global chief executive of creative at DAN, who now would also chair a One Dentsu global creative council to drive consistent standards of client work. One thing that Jayme was allowed to keep was her much-beloved title of Chairmom, as she explained to Campaign: “It reminds me you can do both. I want to pave the way for women for that.”

Elsewhere, Keita Ishikawa, who was CEO of Beijing Dentsu Group, was chosen to lead Dentsumcgarrybowen China, and Tammy Sheu joined him as the other co-chair of DAN’s creative line of business in China, responsible for Isobar Group, including VeryStar. From there, changes began trickling down to all the other local markets, fusing more Dentsu businesses together into one Dentsu family, much like the new name packs many names all together as one. 

1. Group'eM both together
Promoted: Ashutosh Srivastava, Patrick Xu

Following the promotion of Mark Patterson to GroupM global COO last year, Patrick Xu and Ashutosh Srivastava were both appointed as CEOs of WPP's media investment group as the role was split within Asia-Pacific. With distinct geographic responsibilities, Xu's mainland China CEO remit was expanded to Greater China's Hong Kong and Taiwan markets. Xu would also remain WPP’s China country manager. Srivastava, meanwhile moved from a multi-regional role with Mindshare to take responsibility at GroupM for all other Asia-Pacific markets. The dynamic duo were then added to GroupM's global leadership team. 

Campaign Asia

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