Wieden+Kennedy Moves New York Execs Into Global Leadership Roles

Neal Arthur and Karl Lieberman elevated to COO and CCO

Neal Arthur (l.) and Karl Lieberman (r.) join Colleen DeCourcy on W+K's global leadership team. Rebecca Greenfield for Adweek

Wieden+Kennedy elevated New York managing director Neal Arthur and executive creative director Karl Lieberman to global roles as chief operations officer and chief creative officer, respectively.

The duo will work alongside Colleen DeCourcy, who remains in her role as president as global CCO. DeCourcy was previously co-president with Tom Blessington, who moves into the chairman’s role. Blessington replaces Dave Luhr, who is retiring at the end of 2020. All of these moves are effective on Jan. 1, 2021.

WKNY has notched significant wins like Ford, McDonald’s, Michelob Ultra, Kraft Heinz and Duracell, invigorating the indie’s New York operation. Additionally, under Arthur and Lieberman, the office has had four consecutive years of its best revenue growth since opening in 1995.

The New York operation of Adweek’s 2019 U.S. Agency of the Year has gained more momentum, moving out of the shadow of the Portland mothership and holding more than its own. According to Lieberman, the spirit of that forward momentum will spread across the global network of offices in Amsterdam, Delhi, London, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo, while allowing for individuality.

“There is momentum, but we’re not trying to export the style of the New York office,” Lieberman said. “The beauty of this company is that it allows for each office in the network to stand on its own. New York doesn’t have to be Portland. Shanghai doesn’t have to be London. We’re always trying to share what works in one place and see if it can be useful for others.”

While these moves are pragmatic and practical, Arthur noted that internal energy is a crucial component of the network’s success.

“This doesn’t change day-to-day energy,” he said. “But it is an opportunity to channel the spiritual energy of the place so that we take actions and collectively create work that’s bigger than ads.”

Arthur joined W+K in 2005 and was head of strategic planning before becoming managing director. During his tenure, revenue has doubled, and WKNY has become a desirable landing spot for talent. Outside of the agency, Arthur is the board chair for Ghetto Film School.

“W+K has played a huge role in our lives because it’s not just a place or a job,” he said. “It’s a culture that has allowed us to be ourselves, to speak up, and use the work to say something.”

Operationally, Blessington noted that some of the more pressing concerns and challenges include obvious factors like Covid-19, but talent is a crucial way forward.

“[We’re] looking for ways to expand our service offering to ensure we’re not only meeting the needs of our clients but staying competitive as well,” he said. “Our reputation as an agency is based on the strength of our creative and strategic product. Continuing to bolster and evolve that reputation requires us to bring more diverse talent with different points of view into our fold.”

Lieberman landed at the agency’s Portland HQ in 2008 and has been part of some of the shop’s more iconic work for P&G and KFC, leading campaigns like “Thank You, Mom” for the CPG giant and bringing back Colonel Sanders. Before W+K, Lieberman is best known for co-creating “The Most Interesting Man in the World” for Dos Equis.

“Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t even get an interview at Wieden, so to find myself in this position is as surreal as it is awesome,” he said. “This place has always pushed me. Now it’s my turn to help give more people the opportunities, inspiration and confidence Wieden has given me over the years.”

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.