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Y&R Finds N.A. Strategy Chief at Burnett

Hope Cowan to work on existing accounts, new biz

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Hope Cowan embraces the challenge of reinventing storied brands. Well, she'll certainly get that chance in her new job as North American chief strategy officer at Young & Rubicam.

Cowan, a longtime strategic planning leader at Leo Burnett, will be based in New York and lead some 30 planners in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto. She'll also contribute to new business pitches and work on existing accounts, such as Danone.

The North American position is new and designed to establish a common "vocabulary" and set of tools for planning in the region, according to Cowan. The new leader will report to global planning director Sandy Thompson and Carter Murray, president and CEO for North America.

"Hope's track record in providing strong strategic leadership for senior clients and her passion for developing planning talent make her ideal as a partner for me," Murray said.

Since last year, Cowan has led planning globally on Kellogg's at Leo Burnett in New York. Before that, she spent a year at the agency's office in London as the planning chief on the European portion of the business.

Earlier in her career, Cowan spent seven years at Burnett's headquarters in Chicago, where she worked on Altoids, Kraft salad dressings, the Beef Council—even though she was a vegan at the time—and the U.S. Army.

Cowan's other brand experience came as executive planning director at Beacon Communications, a joint venture of Publicis Groupe and Dentsu in Tokyo. In that role, which she held from 2007 until 2010, she worked everything from McDonald's, Sanofi and Philip Morris to Nike and Procter & Gamble. Cowan began her career as an assistant account executive at Howard, Merrill & Partners in Raleigh, N.C.

When asked what brand reinvention work she admires, Cowan cited in particular Wieden + Kennedy's "Imported from Detroit" campaign for Chrysler, which she described as "amazing." Personally, Cowan helped develop the previous "Crazy Good" effort for Pop-Tarts and "Childhood is calling" for Kellogg's Rice Krispies.

"The thing that really excites me is to go after old brands, if you will, and try to resurrect them in a way or make them new, modern and contemporary," explained Cowan. "A lot of planners gravitate toward creating the new. But I like storied brands. I like digging into the past and seeing what can be reinterpreted for today. Frankly, I think it's a much easier challenge."