Mcgarrybowen’s First Chief Innovation Officer Wants to Solve CMO’s ‘Big, Real, Hardcore Problems’

The agency promoted Greg Johnson from Swirl

Dentsu Aegis Network’s mcgarrybowen has hired Greg Johnson as its first chief innovation officer.

The agency’s U.S. president, Patrick Lafferty, who replaced Simon Pearce back in March, announced the news of the hire today.

“Greg has a future-focused lens on how to transform the way we think about delivering value for our clients. Greg is a digital native, yet possesses a seamless ability to integrate Swirl’s strong data-driven unique digital execution with mcgarrybowen’s hallmark Big Organizing Ideas platform,” Lafferty said in a statement. “Greg has turned his skills into leading teams to customizing innovation to attract clients like Dole and Conduent.”

In the newly-created role, Johnson will be responsible for leading the development of new capabilities, competencies, and business models for the agency’s three offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, across its client roster. The appointment follows mcgarrybowen’s acquisition of San Francisco digital agency Swirl, where Johnson most recently served as chief innovation officer, last December.

Johnson told Adweek that the acquisition saw the combination of “two complimentary capabilities and offerings,” with a “a lot of overlap in cultural approach.”

“We’re figuring out how to take that joined set of capabilities and competencies and go to market a little bit differently and go after new business with that in mind as well,” he said. “I will spend quite a bit of time making sure that we have the right answers, in terms of our capabilities, competencies, and even business models, to be really successful with new business.”

Before being promoted to chief innovation officer at Swirl this June, Johnson spent over four years as executive vice president, director of digital at the agency. Prior to joining joining Swirl, he spent three and a half year as executive vice president, digital innovation lead at Pilot44 Labs.

Johnson told Adweek that he viewed innovation as critical to the industry as clients face new challenges. “The way we have to solve problems has to change as well,” he said, adding that mcgarrybowen is a “challenger brand” that will “do things differently on behalf of our clients.”

“At the end of the day we’re paid to solve business problems from a marketing point of view. I want to be able to ratchet that up. I want to build … systems that can solve big, real, hardcore problems CMOs have,” he added. “The complexity of that is not something that you can solve with a pure brand assignment … just a tech stack … just a little better media performance. You solve it with all those things together.”

Back in April, mcgarrybowen promoted Michelle Roufa to executive creative director in New York. In June, the agency hired Julie Scelzo in the newly-created role of global executive creative director on its American Express account.

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.