Karen Costello is returning to Deutsch Los Angeles for the second time, this time to serve as CCO. She arrives with decades of agency experience, after initially joining as one of its first creative hires in 1997.
She joins the agency after over three years with The Martin Agency as executive creative director, leading the Mondelēz account in 2017. She had been promoted to CCO the next year.
Costello told Adweek that the move was “bittersweet,” as she considered the team at The Martin Agency to be like family. She explained that she was “feeling the pull of family to the West Coast” and the “weight of distance” when the opportunity to rejoin Deutsch Los Angeles as CCO came up.
“[The Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo] was an incredible partner,” she told Adweek. “You learn the power that you have, you learn the positive impact you can make when you have a partner who shares your fire and your values.”
“That whole agency rose up to the challenge and we all were on the journey together. We were all part of something bigger than ourselves and building something that felt like change and progress,” she added. “They’re on such a great path. They’ll keep building and progressing.”
Costello’s stint at The Martin Agency followed a dozen years at Deutsch L.A., most recently as executive creative director. In 2016, Costello earned an Adweek Creative 100 honor while still with the agency. She spent an additional six years with Deutsch in her first stint with the agency before leaving for Secret Weapon in 2004, only to rejoin Deutsch the following year.
During her tenure with Deutsch, Costello said she was the agency’s 13th hire. “The agency was in one room with one big table. Everyone had to sit at one table and share plugs and chords,” she recalled. “The DNA of that place is sitting around and figuring things out together. Everybody has a voice and stake in making things.”
As chief creative officer at Deutsch L.A., Costello will oversee creative development for the office, working closely with CEO Kim Getty, who she said she was excited to team up with because Getty “believes in the power of female leadership.”
In a statement, Getty said that Deutsch “has always embodied a roll-up-your-sleeves entrepreneurial spirit, and much of that ethos stems from Karen’s imprint and history at the agency,” who helped take the agency from a small shop to an agency with a national footprint.
Costello’s arrival follows Deutsch Los Angeles firing former CCO Brett Craig this June after the reemergence of an offensive email from 2015. Craig had been promoted to the CCO role in December 2018 after six years with the agency, working on accounts including Dr Pepper, H&R Block and Taco Bell. In April, Deutsch laid off or furloughed 10% of staff in L.A., citing the business impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“When there are challenging times—and there’s no question that a global pandemic is a challenging time—leading with your heart and making sure you are forging relationships with clients and teams, those are the things that prevail,” Costello said. She continued that she wanted to center her work around people and create an environment where they feel valued and respected, something she said she has striven for throughout her career.