Three months after firing CEO Jim Palmer over his handling of the “Ghetto Day” email controversy, IPG has promoted president Kevin Wertz to the top role at Campbell Ewald.
Chief creative officer Mark Simon will also leave the agency on April 30 to be replaced by Jo Shoesmith, who joined Campbell Ewald’s Los Angeles office as an ECD last summer after leaving Leo Burnett Chicago. Shoesmith will remain in L.A. overseeing creative at all Campbell Ewald offices and report directly to Wertz, who has been running the entire operation since Palmer was very publicly terminated in January.
IPG CEO Michael Roth writes, “We’re thrilled Jo is taking the lead creative role at Campbell Ewald. We know that she will continue developing the award-winning and innovative work she’s known for – ideas that move the needle on her clients’ business goals.”
On the new chief executive, Roth adds, “[Wertz is] a leader who understands and lives up to our values and culture of accountability. He inspires clients and his people. And he attracts and develops contemporary, collaborative talent.”
Shoesmith is both the first female CCO in the agency’s 105-year history and the first creative leader not based in its Detroit office.
We would note that Mark Simon was the direct manager of Jim Houck, the ECD who wrote the email that got Jim Palmer fired. We would also note that Wertz “joined LCE in 2007 and moved to Texas in 2009 to open its San Antonio office,” split his time between that office and corporate headquarters in Detroit, and therefore also managed all operations in San Antonio. We hear that Simon was aware of both the “Ghetto Day” party and the email Houck wrote to promote it, and that he approved of both. Campbell Ewald promoted Wertz from managing director to president in September 2014.
Agency spokespeople told Adweek today that Simon’s departure had nothing to do with the email, which caused the agency to lose the USAA, Henry Ford Health Centers and Edward Jones accounts. Both the press release and Wertz’s internal memo claim that Simon has chosen to retire after 16 years with C-E.
We hear that Palmer’s fate was sealed when IPG executives realized that he (and, allegedly, Simon) had failed to mention the “Ghetto Day” incident at a subsequent holding company meeting on diversity. Both were aware of what had happened, because they made an apology to San Antonio employees who were offended but didn’t punish anyone or change anything afterward. This misstep also followed the recent losses of Cadillac and U.S. Navy, which were two of C-E’s biggest accounts. (The agency sued over the latter loss and the matter has yet to be resolved in court, which means that Navy’s new AOR Y&R has been unable to work on the business so far.)
Here’s the full memo from the new CEO:
Today starts a new chapter in Campbell Ewald’s history. After 16 years at Campbell Ewald, Mark Simon has made the decision to retire from the agency, April 30. As Chief Creative Officer, Mark’s creative vision and leadership has resulted in some of our most iconic, and award-winning work. He is an extraordinary talent and will be greatly missed.
I am pleased to announce that Jo Shoesmith will be succeeding Mark as our next CCO. Since joining us in August, Jo has proven to be both highly creative and strategic, inspiring work across all disciplines that delivers on strategy and achieves results for our clients. Her pulse on the industry combined with her passion for mentoring talent will help evolve CE’s legacy of creative excellence into the future.
In an effort to fully embrace the agency’s open architecture, Jo will continue to be based in Los Angeles and report directly to me. This will be an agency first and I have every confidence in Jo to effectively lead the cross-collaboration across all offices. She will be making her rounds and visiting each of our offices in coming weeks. If you haven’t already had the chance to work with her or meet her, please make sure to introduce yourself and support her in her new role.
Please join me in extending best wishes to Mark on his retirement, and congratulating Jo on this well-deserved promotion.
On a side note, anonymous sources tell us that Campbell Ewald employees who posted on their personal social media accounts regarding the transition of the USAA account to MullenLowe received threats of termination from agency HR.