Cutwater’s Walter Smith Returns to TBWA

NEW YORK Walter Smith, president of Omnicom Group’s Cutwater since March 2008, is leaving the agency to reunite with former client Infiniti at sister shop TBWA.

Smith will assume a global managing director role on Infiniti, the luxury nameplate of Nissan, TBWA confirmed. He fills a vacancy created by the August exit of Robert Harwood-Matthews, who became managing director of the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of Omnicom’s PHD West.

Smith, 52, will be based in the Playa del Rey, Calif., office of TBWA\Chiat\Day but will travel regularly to key agency hubs on the business, such as in Nashville and Tokyo, according to an agency representative.

Smith becomes the second president to exit Cutwater in as many years. Brad Harrington left in February 2008, after holding the post for less than a year. 

No immediate successor was named, but sources expect chief strategy officer Rob Klingensmith, 41, to assume Smith’s leadership duties. For now, however, Klingensmith’s title has not changed.

The 50-person Cutwater, a spin-off of TBWA\C\D’s former San Francisco office, opened in March 2007. Its top clients include Luxottica Group’s Ray-Ban and LensCrafters.

Global major media spending on Infiniti was not immediately available. In the U.S alone, the brand spent $205 million in major media last year — about the same as in ’07 — and more than $60 million in the first seven months of 2009, according to Nielsen. Those figures don’t include online spending.

Before Cutwater, Smith was executive managing director of TBWA\G1 Europe in Paris. Earlier in his career, he held account roles on Infiniti at TBWA\C\D in Playa del Rey.

“Walt knows the business and our network,” TBWA worldwide CEO Tom Carroll said. “He’s the perfect person to lead the Infiniti brand.”