In a major leadership shakeup, Leo Burnett Worldwide global president and CEO Rich Stoddart announced this week that he will be leaving the agency. The network’s global chief creative officer, Mark Tutssel, will also move into the executive chairman role while retaining his previous title.
Late last year, Publicis eliminated all global CEO titles, meaning Tutssel will effectively replace Stoddart as the agency’s top-ranking executive. A spokesperson declined to elaborate on the reasons for this decision.
“Mark’s appointment reinforces the importance of creativity at the heart of Publicis Groupe’s offering,” read the official announcement. It appeared at the end of a statement regarding several changes at the larger Publicis network, which included the appointment of Alexandra von Plato as Publicis Health’s first female CEO.
The press release also stated that Stoddart would be “leaving to pursue a new venture” before he revealed on Twitter that he will join Chicago-based, publicly traded global marketing execution firm InnerWorkings as president and CEO in April.
The outgoing executive spent over two decades with the Leo Burnett organization, becoming North American president in 2005 before being promoted to CEO in 2015; as of January 2016, he held both the global and North American CEO titles. The latter move came immediately after former Publicis leader Maurice Levy announced a major restructuring in which the agency network split into four global “hubs” with all creative resources under the Publicis Communications umbrella.
One year later, Leo Burnett named former Starcom president Andrew Swinand as its new North American CEO, acquiring his analytics software company Ardent IO and startup incubator The Abundancy and hiring 60 of his employees to work at Leo Burnett. At the time, the agency said Stoddart would focus on the global CEO role, though his LinkedIn profile indicates that his position was “global president serving as chief executive officer.”
Sources close to the matter indicate that executives based in Publicis Groupe’s Paris headquarters began pushing for North American leadership changes after Leo Burnett lost longtime client McDonald’s to Omnicom in late 2016.
The holding company officially announced that Arthur Sadoun would succeed Maurice Levy in January 2017, and yesterday’s press release included the following statement from the CEO: “As we continue on our journey to be the market leaders in marketing and business transformation, these appointments will allow Publicis Groupe to reinforce our global practices while further breaking down silos at country and regional level. This is a key priority for us in order to constantly build on the quality of the expertise we deliver to our clients in a seamless way.”
Tutssel’s transition also comes on the heels of Publicis hiring R/GA veteran Nick Law to serve as its global chief creative officer in January.
Stoddart first joined Leo Burnett in 1985 and later went on lead accounts at Fallon and serve as Ford Motor Company’s director of marketing communications before returning to the agency in 2005. He also served as chairman of the American Advertising Federation from 2013 to 2015 and currently sits on the board of directors at Hasbro.