Strategy’s Most Read of 2019: Agencies

The hires, promotions and new business approaches that got the most attention from strategy readers this year.

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This week, strategy is counting down the most-read stories from all our areas of coverage over the past year. Today, we are looking at the changes at Canada’s agencies that got the most attention. Check back throughout the week for more of 2019′s biggest stories and, in the meantime, read up on the top stories from Shopper Marketing Report.

Leo Burnett grows exec team as Judy John prepares exit

As Judy John, CEO of Leo Burnett Canada and CCO for Leo Burnett North America, planned to take on a new opportunity – revealed the following day to be the global CCO role at Edelman – the agency announced that a number of long-time staff had been added to an expanded leadership team. That included naming Lisa Greenberg as CCO, while CDs Anthony Chelvanathan and Steve Persico have had SVP added to their titles as they joined the executive leadership team. Tahir Ahmad was named SVP and head of strategy and Natasha Dagenais was promoted to SVP and head of account management, all of whom joined president Ben Tarr and chief strategy officer Brent Nelsen on the agency’s leadership team.

The promotions were partially in response to John’s impending departure, but also to help Leo Burnett strengthen its role as the “creative and strategic centre of excellence” within holding company Publicis Groupe, which continued its ongoing transformation plan in 2019. To that end, the agency brought on a new head of operations last month to help handle the internal and structural elements of moving more upstream with clients. The agency also added a new CD with a background in creative innovation this year, while also joining Samsung’s agency roster in the Canadian market.

McCann Canada names new CEO amid restructuring


McCann began 2019 by bringing in Simon Sikorski, former chief client officer of McCann’s production network Craft, to helm the agency in Canada. This was part of a restructuring that included the departure of previous CEO David Leonard, chief creative officer Darren Clarke and chief strategy officer Mary Chambers. The restructuring also included having leadership for each of McCann’s specialist agencies report to both Sikorski and regional leadership. Chris Macdonald, global president of advertising and allied agencies at IPG-owned McCann Worldgroup, told strategy at the time this model had been adopted in other markets and would help both pull resources from their global networks, as well as integrate its wide array of offerings within the market when required.

Despite the potentially inauspicious start to the year, McCann has kept the momentum going with more changes such as – in chronological order – reorganizing its health practice, hiring a new president for its direct marketing agency, hiring a new VP of strategy, naming a new agency president and picking a new national chief creative officer. It has also picked up assignments with Saxx and Bayer.

DDB hires Brent Choi as CEO and CCO

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As Lance Saunders prepared to leave DDB for a new opportunity and Frank Palmer prepared to transition out of agency life, the agency brought Brent Choi into the dual CEO and CCO role. Choi had left J. Walter Thompson after six years of holding a variety of leadership positions at the agency’s Canadian, U.S. and global offices.

The agency had previously eliminated the CCO role a year prior during an earlier restructuring, but Wendy Clark, president and CEO of DDB Worldwide, told strategy that bringing Choi in to the dual role was part of putting creative “at the heart” of everything it did, at a time when the agency was focusing on its creative culture at a global level. In Canada, the agency has since made additions across departments as Choi has looked to help better leverage its multidisciplinary offering for clients.

Cossette adds three VPs to strategy leadership


Cossette’s most recent set of people moves got the most attention from readers this year, but hires and promotions were plentiful at the agency in 2019. Cossette also named two new presidents to help it handle its global ambitions, which were helped along by the fact that it and parent company Vision7 were at the centre of a new model for Blue Focus’ international agencies. It brought on a new chief strategy officer as Rosie Gentile prepared for a new role within the agency. It named multiple new senior positions within its design and digital teams. Longtime creatives Craig McIntosh and Jaimes Zentil took on new ECD responsibilities. Zoe Beland took on more responsibility with clients in Quebec City, and a new lead was hired for its recently won Walmart account.