Laurie Coots, the tireless TBWA veteran that epitomized the phrase, "Chiat/Day and Night," is leaving the agency world after 29 years at TBWA and the old Chiat/Day.
Coots has a lot of plans—including business consulting, working with former Procter & Gamble marketing chief Jim Stengel and editing a documentary—but no desire to take another agency job.
"Building this brand has been my life's work," explained Coots, 56. "So, I have no interest in joining another agency."
Coots had quite a run at TBWA, starting in 1984 as a secretary assigned to the Apple account and working her way up through account management, planning and operations before ascending to global chief marketing officer and head of TBWA's "Disruption" consultancy. Along the way, Coots became synonymous with the agency, a shrewd force in business development and a frank, articulate voice at industry conferences.
In the past two years, she stepped back a bit, focusing primarily on the agency consultancy and less on day-to-day business. Still, when she shared her plans to leave with TBWA honchos at Cannes in June, they were stunned. It was hard to imagine TBWA without her. TBWA CEO Tom Carroll said as much in an internal note to staffers about Coots' exit.
"She always put the agency and the people inside the agency first," Carroll wrote. "She worked with some of the most brilliant, emotionally imbalanced, disorganized, maniacal, crazy lunatics in the business and made them all better. She never blinked."
And while the exit of a top executive at a major agency always raises eyebrows, Coots maintained that her departure today was straightforward: after decades of team building at an agency she loved, she simply wants to be her own boss.
"I'm not bitter at all. I'm just done," Coots told Adweek. "I want to work a little and live a lot." She certainly has earned that right.