Leo Burnett hires new head of operations

Kinga Karadi will support the agency's leadership as it evolves its creative offering and pursues "transformational change."

Kinga Karadi Headshot

Leo Burnett has hired Kinga Karadi as SVP and head of operations in Toronto as it continues to pursue an evolution of its offering.

Karadi will act as the executive team’s “right hand” in helping to guide transformational change at the agency, says president Ben Tarr, who Karadi will report to. The head of operations role is a new one for Leo Burnett in Toronto, though Tarr says there have been different “manifestations” of the role and its duties in the past. The agency was looking for someone to fill the role to help guide its process and structure as it embarks on a transformation.

“Transformation at this scale of an organization like ours can’t be done off the side of a desk by people that need to focus on our clients’ business,” he says. “Myself and the executive team, we need to be 120% on our clients’ businesses, and I need someone else to be there to help with the transformation agenda. It’s a priority for us, but I don’t want it to be a distraction from our clients’ business.”

Tarr, who joined Leo Burnett last year, says Karadi will help lead its transformation from an ad agency to a creative consultancy. While Leo Burnett will continue to be “an ad-dominant company for some time,” it is diversifying the kind of creative work it does and evolving its offering, as holding company Publicis Groupe continues on a transformation agenda of its own.

“Creativity and Leo Burnett are synonymous, and we will always be that creative part of the Groupe’s transformation agenda itself,” Tarr says. “Andrew Bruce has just come in to a new role [within Publicis Groupe], and we are very much working as a collective. We live and sit in the same building as the media agencies and share a number of clients, we work daily with [digital transformation agency] Publicis.Sapient and we work very closely with [PR agencies] MSL and North. That won’t change. We’re just strengthening the offering of the creative portion with Leo, because our transformation helps strengthen what the Groupe needs from us as a creative powerhouse.”

One of the moves in support of that transformation has been adding what Tarr calls “a creative trifecta” on the leadership team.

At the beginning of the year, the agency named Lisa Greenberg as CCO (following the departure of Judy John), while also adding CDs Anthony Chelvanathan and Steve Persico to the executive team. Head of strategy Tahir Ahmad, head of account management Natasha Dagenais and chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett North America Brent Nelsen round out that team. Tarr also says the agency has been organized into three “squads”: one containing creative, design, strategy and account management; one containing all production and “maker” capabilities to bring them closer to the beginning of the creative process, instead of at the tail-end of delivery; and another containing finance, HR and talent functions.

“We are finding some of the organizational design impacts have been super positive, and some have been less so, so we are going to take some of those learnings into 2020 into a re-energized space and tweaking the organizational design once again,” Tarr says, referring to an office renovation and redesign currently in progress. “Bringing divergent groups together, we’re finding more collaboration and better knowledge of client business, and more of our clients are finding it to be more of a collaborative process as well.”

Karadi previously held SVP of operations roles at Fuse and FCB, and has also worked for several years as an independent management consultant. Tarr says her experience at different kinds of agencies and an understanding of digital methodologies is what the agency needs at this point of its transformation.