Frank Palmer to leave DDB

The agency's chairman and CEO is leaving the advertising world, but doesn't consider it a retirement.
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DDB Canada’s chairman and CEO Frank Palmer has announced his impending departure from the agency.

Palmer’s last full-time day with the agency will be Dec. 31, though he will continue to serve in a part-time capacity until April 1, 2019. The date is a significant one for Palmer: besides April Fool’s Day fitting with the image he has crafted as a prankster through the course of his career, it will mark exactly 50 years since his start in the industry in 1969.

No staffing changes are expected as a result of Palmer’s departure, with the agency continuing to be led in Canada by national president and COO Lance Saunders.

“Frank’s contribution to the DDB Group agencies, and to the Canadian advertising industry as a whole is immeasurable,” said Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB Worldwide, in a statement. “We want to thank him for guiding our team and advancing our business for so many years with his trailblazing spirit.”

Palmer launched ad agency Palmer Jarvis at the age of 29 with partner George Jarvis in 1969. Starting in Vancouver, Palmer took an approach of expansion through acquisition, buying up agencies across Western Canada and bringing them into the Palmer Jarvis fold. The agency had offices in Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg in 1997, the year Palmer sold his agency to holding company Omnicom, which merged it with the Canadian operations of DDB. He has been inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends and received the Association of Canadian Advertisers’ prestigious Gold Medal Award.

“This is a younger person’s business today,” Palmer says of his decision to step away. “As much as I think I still have the energy and enthusiasm and interest, I can try and be the Wizard of Oz, but people are gonna know I’m not 45 when I come out from behind the curtain. In order to do something and leave, you want there to be some kind of landmark, and 50 felt like the right one. It could have been after 30 years, but I wasn’t quite ready. The timing now just felt good.”

Palmer will be turning his attention to other business ventures he has invested in and helped launch over the years, from zip-lining companies to health websites. On top of those, Palmer says he is looking forward to devoting more time to painting, as well as helping young entrepreneurs make connections with business partners – such as design or digital agencies.

“For me, to stop or to retire is not in my vocabulary. Once you retire, you get old very fast and lose momentum. It’s always about what’s next and where can I turn my interest to keep me thinking.”

One of the founders of the National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS), Palmer has placed importance on his charitable work over the years for non-profits and organizations such as Special Olympics B.C., Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Rick Hansen Foundation. Palmer also singles out work for clients like McDonald’s, SunRype and Canada’s tourism board as something he is particularly proud of, as well as the fact that leadership at many agencies in Vancouver – as well as in agency offices throughout Canada – came through Palmer Jarvis or DDB at some point.

“[Palmer Jarvis and DDB have] been great schools for a lot of people, and hopefully what they’ve learned from us is to not only do good work, but maintain their principles and values,” Palmer says. “It’s always been important to me to do the right thing and treat people properly with some form of respect. We work in a tough industry, and that’s more true today than ever before.”