With Hire, Deutsch Takes the First Step in Jump-Starting Its New York Operations

OMD's Tara Levine signs on as CMO

Tara Levine is the new CMO at Deutsch New York as its execs seek to reinvent the office under the agency's new North American leadership team led by chief Mike Sheldon.

Sheldon, working with Deutsch N.Y. CEO Val DiFebo, wants to jump-start New York operations and forge a closer working relationship between Deutsch's two offices. Levine, previously managing director of global marketing and business development at OMD, reports to DiFebo but interviewed with Sheldon and the agency's other top North America execs based at Deutsch Los Angeles.  

"We have a lot of big plans for our New York and Los Angeles offices, and that's the lens through which we looked at Tara," said DiFebo. "We're aiming for big growth, change and doing things differently. She's up for that. Tara has global experience and experience across all communications touchpoints. She is very modern in her thinking about clients and about our industry, which is very aligned with where we are."

Levine replaces Michael Goldberg, who became CEO at Zimmerman in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last September.

While she brings media agency experience from more than five years at OMD, Levine also has worked at creative shops like Euro RSCG and Arnold Worldwide where she had top business development roles in New York. She also spent time on the client side at the American Stock Exchange, where she was marketing manager.

Deutsch's Sheldon, who was formerly chief of the agency in L.A. and became North America CEO in January, now spends half his time in New York and is making his presence felt there, aligning resources between the two offices.

"New York has had a tremendous amount of organic growth. Now we need to increase the business momentum with hires like Tara and others we expect to make," Sheldon said. "[Deutsch New York has] impressive, state-of the-art comms planning and data analytics which they can bring to L.A."

Adding Sherwin-Williams in November was a high point in an otherwise disappointing new-business year. While Deutsch N.Y. reached the finals in several reviews since early 2014—including GNC, American Eagle Outfitters, Northwestern Mutual, Choice Hotels and the New York Post—it had trouble closing on any of that business.

Levine, who starts at Deutsch next week, said she'll be spending the first 90 days getting the lay of the land and figuring out what's working and what can be improved. "This is a great agency but has the potential for beyond greatness," she said.

The fact that the agency is a full-service shop with media and related offerings was no small draw for her.

"I've now seen the power of media—how data can power smarter decisions," Levine said of her OMD experience. "A lot of creative agencies can't wrap their heads around that, but Deutsch does. Unless that's part of what you're doing, I don't know how you can make effective creative and drive business results."

Levine is the first of what is expected to be an expanding team. DiFebo echoes Sheldon in saying attracting new talent is a top priority this year at Deutsch N.Y. In addition to bolstering top creative and account positions, the agency is searching for a replacement for chief strategy officer Brent Vartan, who left the agency on April 1 but remains a consultant.

The Interpublic agency is known for its top female leadership that includes North America chairman Linda Sawyer; N.Y. chief creative officer Kerry Keenan and L.A. president Kim Getty, in addition to DiFebo.  

However, with Levine's hiring, DiFebo said gender was just a coincidence. "It's great she's a woman, but we would have hired her if she was a man," DiFebo said. "We were looking for the best candidate and that was Tara."