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DDB Chicago Plugs In New Chief Digital Officer

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DDB Chicago has added The Martin Agency’s Jonathan Sackett in the new position of chief digital officer.

Sackett, who starts Monday, is charged with recruiting talent, building platforms and developing client work, said DDB North American president Mark O’Brien. In addition, he’ll contribute to new business pitches, including efforts to expand existing client relationships.

Sackett, 41, also will serve as managing director of the 300-person office, whose clients include McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch InBev. As such, he becomes part of a management team that includes chief creative officer Ewan Paterson.

The hire comes three months after the exit of office CEO Rick Carpenter and as O’Brien seeks to fill that role. O’Brien has interviewed five candidates and remains on track to complete the search by the end of June. Until then, he’ll continue to oversee Chicago, as he splits time between that city and his main office in New York.

At Interpublic Group’s Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., Sackett also was CDO. He had worked there since early 2009. Before that, he spent two years in a similar role at Havas’ Arnold in Boston.

“I look at Jonathan as a creative and a strategist, not a tech guy,” said O’Brien. “Initially, [the role] is going to be more internally focused. But I hope that very quickly—within six months—he’ll become integral with our clients and on new business.”

By O’Brien’s estimate, only 25 of Chicago’s staffers are digital specialists, which equates to just 8 percent of the staff. In contrast, nearly a third of Martin’s estimated 600 staffers—including media—are known primarily for their digital skills, according to Sackett.

Clearly, DDB needs to fortify its digital ranks. Because digital seeps into every agency job these days, Sackett will need to focus as much on educating existing staff as adding new talent. In addition, he hopes to serve as “that guy who has the answer” to client questions about the space.

And while the title of chief digital officer sounds so 2007, it nonetheless “allows the clients to expect that you’re going to probably have the right answer for how do you resolve these social media, how do you use URLs, et cetera, because a lot of creative guys have ideas but they don’t know how to synergize them,” Sackett said.