DDB Canada restructures leadership, rebrands Vancouver office

Kevin Brady takes over as CEO and Frank Palmer comes out of retirement, following the departure of Brent Choi.

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From left to right: Kevin Brady, president and CEO of DDB Canada; Frank Palmer, chairman of Palmer Stamnes DDB; Bob Stamnes, CEO of Palmer Stamnes DDB; and Megan Hardisty, managing director of DDB Canada Toronto.

DDB Canada has restructured its leadership team, which includes bringing former chairman and CEO Frank Palmer out of retirement.

The leadership change comes following the resignation of DDB Canada CEO and CCO Brent Choi.

Kevin Brady, currently CEO of health division Anderson DDB in Toronto, is expanding his role to also become president and CEO of DDB’s offices in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. Chuck Brymer, chairman of DDB Worldwide, said in release that Brady has been able to produce growth even through times of economic uncertainty through the years, poising DDB for success under his leadership. He also thanked Choi for his contribution to the agency and wished him the best in his future endeavours.

The only office Brady’s new remit doesn’t cover is Vancouver, where Palmer and business partner Bob Stamnes – CEO of Elevator Strategy – will be leading the office, now rebranded as Palmer Stamnes DDB. The pair are looking to develop an agile and more responsive agency model that utilizes the abilities of DDB’s worldwide network to utilize creativity, technology and scalability, with entrepreneurial firepower.

“I believe we are entering a new era of marketing communications, where in addition to stellar creativity, we must marry agility with scalability in order to meet today’s client demands for speed to market,” said Palmer, who will be the agency’s chairman, while Stamnes takes on CEO duties. “I’m looking forward to pushing our boundaries beyond what others see as possible, which is why I’m excited to return to the DDB family.”

In Toronto, Brady will work alongside Megan Hardisty, who has been appointed the office’s new managing director. Hardisty was most recently SVP and general manager of fellow Omnicom shop Red Magnet, a dedicated media agency servicing Rogers. Earlier this month, Rogers moved its various assignments away from Omnicom – including those handled by DDB and Red Magnet – and consolidated them with a new dedicated team formed by WPP.

Helene Leggatt and Patty Jones – presidents of DDB’s offices in Edmonton and Vancouver, respectively – remain in their roles. Jean-Francois Mallette, EVP and managing director in Montreal, has moved on from the agency, and Glen Cambridge, VP of operations at Anderson DDB, now oversees the Montreal operation.

Changes on the creative front

Creative will now be led by the ranking CDs in each office, and the agency says there are currently no plans to find a new national creative lead. In Toronto, that includes Erin Kawalecki, who was hired in 2016 and promoted to ECD in October. She will be working alongside Anderson DDB’s national creative director, Tony Miller, who will also be stepping into a more expansive role.

In Vancouver, ECD Dean Lee has left the agency after 17 years to pursue new creative interests. Palmer Stamnes DDB is currently recruiting for a new creative director, though James Bateman, VP and CD in charge of brand and design, as well as Rob Newell, VP of brand strategy, will be joining the leadership team.

In Montreal, ECD Sann Sava left to take over creative at Publicis Montreal last year, and the office’s product is being overseen by Miller in conjunction with the local team. Eva Polis, VP and CD in Edmonton, continues to lead creative in that office.

Choi was hired at the beginning of 2019 in the dual CEO and CCO role and led all of the agency’s offerings across creative, digital, design and CRM with the goal of better integrating those offerings and creating a more collaborative culture at the agency. His hiring came following another period of leadership changes at DDB, including the departures of previous CCO Cosmo Campbell, Vancouver co-managing director Michelle Kitchen, president of digital division Tribal Andrew McCartney and Toronto president Melanie Johnston in the year prior.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity DDB gave me,” Choi said in an email to strategy. “It challenged me. I learned a ton and met some great people. I wish DDB the very best. Personally, I’m looking forward to my career taking an exciting new direction. Stay tuned.”

The restructuring does include some changes in staffing to “keep pace with emerging client needs,” resulting in the permanent dissolving of 17 positions across Canada.