3 Execs Get Chance to Run Major N.Y. Shops

For the three executives named to president posts at the New York offices of Lowe, Foote Cone & Belding and BBDO this month, the new jobs will be their first shot at leading a major agency.

Neither Lowe’s Susan Cantor nor BBDO’s John Osborn, both promoted from within, have served in the top spot before. FCB’s Lynne Seid, most recently chief client officer at BBDO, ran the former Partners & Shevack in New York from 1996-99.

The hirings are further evidence of the limited number of experienced top leaders in the agency business [Adweek, Feb. 9]. The willingness to dig deeper to find new chiefs also reflects the changing demands of the job, said Richard Roth of New York consultancy Roth Associates. “It has always been hard [to find leaders], and now it’s harder,” he said. “Today, clients don’t want or tolerate an ad guy or gal. They want a business person; they want accountability.”

Lowe U.S. chairman Gary Goldsmith said business acumen was a key reason he promoted Cantor, director of client services, who ran the $1 billion shop’s biggest account, General Motors’ GMC. “Our business now is one that requires the people running the agency to not be ceremonial leaders but to be really immersed in the clients’ businesses,” he said. Cantor, 36, also oversaw the MassMutual and Macy’s accounts.

Goldsmith said he sees in Cantor “talent, ability and intensity.” Colleagues describe the former Ammirati Puris Lintas svp, group director as demanding but fair; one called her a “walk-around leader.” Cantor noted that she learned from APL colleague Nancy McNally, “It’s OK to be a really strong, opinionated woman.”

Named president hours after U.S. CEO Tom Bernardin left for Leo Burnett on Feb. 4, Cantor told top managers in her first meeting, “Our success will be our collective success, and failure will be our collective failure. And failure is not an option.”

Seid, 53, will join the $1.5 billion flagship FCB office in April. At BBDO, where she served as chief client officer since 2001 and was credited with helping to win Cingular Wireless, Office Depot and PeopleSoft, she was said to be disarming and witty with clients but hard-nosed as a manager. To that Seid responded, “The person I’m hardest on is myself.”

Seid inherits the president title from Jeff Tarakajian, who relinquished the CEO role last May, when he shifted into an account management position. “This is not a broken agency,” Seid said of the challenges she faces. “It’s a car that needs the engine turned on. I want to be that engine.” FCB Worldwide CEO Brendan Ryan called Seid “a tremendous new-business leader” and the “perfect complement” to chairman and creative chief Chris Becker in communicating strategy to creative teams.

Osborn, 37, was seen as a logical successor to Bill Katz, given his 14 years at the $1.3 billion shop and longtime ties to key client Pepsi. Nicknamed “Ozzy,” the former director of integrated marketing is known for his exuberance and collegial working style. Sources said that could provide a good contrast to the sometimes reserved Ted Sann, BBDO’s creative chief.

“[Osborn] has a fresh perspective on the ways things can be here,” said BBDO Worldwide president Andrew Robertson. “He knows the organization and how to take it forward.” Osborn, who also holds the CEO title, said he intends to “leverage BBDO’s terrific talent across the board.”