Leo Burnett Names Investor and Starcom Vet Andrew Swinand as North American CEO

Agency also acquires 2 new companies

Leo Burnett has hired Publicis Groupe veteran, consultant and venture capitalist Andrew Swinand to serve as its North American chief executive officer.

Swinand, who spent more than a decade in leadership positions at Publicis media agency Starcom MediaVest Group, succeeds Rich Stoddart, who has simultaneously served as global and North American chief executive at Leo Burnett since his promotion last January.

In an internal memo sent to all staff on Sunday, Publicis Worldwide CEO Arthur Sadoun called Swinand "a truly respected and thoughtful leader and a familiar face to many of us within Publicis Groupe," adding, "I truly believe in his ability to drive this transformation in North America for one of our biggest operations." The incoming chief executive ran P&G's Secret account at Starcom and later became president of that agency's Chicago office after working as an account supervisor at BBDO and an in-house brand manager with P&G.

In hiring Swinand, Leo Burnett also acquired his two most recent businesses: analytics software maker Ardent IO and startup incubator The Abundancy. According to Sadoun's memo, these two companies will act as natural partners in helping Publicis develop data-based "custom content" for its clients. Sixty employees from the two organizations will also become Leo Burnett Chicago staffers later this month.

"The challenge every brand faces is to get chosen. Thanks to our technology, it's possible to predict what people want so that brands can respond with experiences that are truly meaningful," said Swinand in a statement. "By combining our data-driven insights with Leo Burnett's award-winning creative capabilities, we will make Leo Burnett's HumanKind approach more powerful than ever before in helping our clients."

Swinand will report to Publicis Communications North American CEO Andrew Bruce while working closely with Stoddart (who will retain the title of global chief) and Judy John, who serves as both CEO of Leo Burnett Canada and chief creative officer of the larger North American organization.

Publicis looks to make 2017 a rebound year for Leo Burnett after its North American network lost the nearly $1 billion McDonald's account to Omnicom last August. Longtime client General Motors also put its GMC brand into review the following month after the Detroit offices of Burnett and DigitasLBi merged, forming the "Engage M-1" unit in order to more effectively serve the client. Leo Burnett will continue to partner with GM as Buick's agency of record even if it does not win the GMC review, though it did recently part with the chief creative officer who had been overseeing all global General Motors work since 2013.

In the memo, Sadoun positioned Swinand's hire as evidence of Publicis Groupe's efforts to "reinforce" the Leo Burnett organization while doubling down on its "Power of One" strategy. This consolidation-heavy approach has recently helped the holding company score new business in North America with USAAWalmart and MillerCoors; the latter two wins occurred without a formal agency review process.