Publicis Group U.K. is restructuring its operations, replacing the CEO of its London shop and creating what it said would be the country’s second-largest direct agency, following the acquisition of Chemistry Communications.
Publicis has tapped Karen Buchanan, managing partner at The Red Brick Road, to become CEO, replacing Neil Simpson who has overseen the agency for the past three years.
At TRBR, Buchanan ran the agency’s flagship account, U.K. retailer Tesco. She joined in December 2006 from DDB London, where she headed account management. Buchanan’s retail expertise is in sync with Publicis London’s past client experience in working with Tesco rival Asda, which left the agency in 2007. Buchanan’s departure from TRBR, founded by now-retired Frank Lowe and other partners, comes at a time when the agency is in the process of being merged into its digital shop, Ruby.
In 2007, when Simpson was named chief executive of Publicis London, many observers voiced skepticism over the choice because he had never led an agency. Simpson came to the post largely with client-side experience, having worked at marketers like Vodafone, Coca-Cola and Adidas. At the athletic footwear and apparel company, Simpson created a stir in 2002 after shifting its ad account from London ad agency Leagas Delaney to an Amsterdam startup, 180, which was created by friends of his to service the business.
Simpson could not be reached for comment about his exit from Publicis U.K. The shop did not explain the top management change, but said in a statement that Simpson is leaving “after a successful three years for the agency.”
Publicis also said that after it completes the acquisition of eCRM shop Chemistry Communications, it will merge it into digital agency Publicis Dialog, creating a new 250-person entity with revenue of $48.8 million. The agency will be led by Chemistry CEO Joe Garton and managing director Diane Charlton. Dialog chief Mike Welsh will join the new agency in a “yet undisclosed role,” Publicis said.
Separately, the Paris-based holding company said it also acquired U.K. integrated shop Kitcatt Nohr, which will merge with Digitas U.K., becoming part of Publicis' VivaKi operations. Kitcatt Nohr, founded in 2002, has clients like Waitrose, John Lewis, Lexus and Toyota. Marc Nohr, agency CEO, and Paul Kitcatt, CCO, will run the new Kitcatt Nohr Digitas and report to Stephan Beringer, president of Digitas International. Sav Evangelou, the ecd of Digitas London, has moved to an international role at the agency.