Interview With David Eastman, CEO JWT North America

By Matt Van Hoven 

Following word that JWT North America’s two leads, Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague have parted with the agency, we called the shop’s new president David Eastman to ask him about the changes. His time was short, but we managed to get in a few decent questions.

AgencySpy: When did you find out that CCO/co-president Ty Montague and co-president Rosemarie Ryan were leaving the agency and that you’re taking over?

Eastman: [I’ve] only known as recently as 4-5 weeks that it was going to be me. But months overall &#151 end of last year [that Montague and Ryan were leaving].

AgencySpy: Was anyone else being considered for the job?

Eastman: I would feel more concerned if nobody else had been considered. I am fairly certain they looked outside. Being dropped into an organization like this from scratch would have taken too long to bring up to speed. I guess that played up to my favor.

AgencySpy: the Wall Street Journal made a big deal out of a digital guy leading the shop. Is this as big change for JWT as we’re lead to believe?

Eastman: Yes. I think that it’s a fairly big change in the industry. I don’t know that there’s any other [digitally bred person] that’s running a traditional agency’s P&L. Unless you give somebody with that knowledge authority, change isn’t going to happen. People see me as a digital person because of my background, but you still fall into the suit role. [Now] it’s the same role, but it’s digital work. There’s not a huge difference in terms of running a business &#151 it’s still the same. You could say ‘I would say that’, but I do think it’s a really big shift. I think that in other big agencies there are other big moves being planned. That’s what JWT wants people to think. A lot of this is about perception &#151 and the perception of an agency that puts digital at its center, I think we’re living that now.

AgencySpy: This role is believed to be the highest authority in the JWT network. You’re filling that position, despite the fact that it was held by two people. Do you agree with the notion that this is the most important seat at JWT? Do you feel confident that you can maintain the relationships Montague and Ryan built up? And oh yeah, you still have all your world wide digital responsibilities.

Eastman: I’m sitting in two seats at the same time. I’m still involved in digital projects (experience dept across various parts of the network). New York is the flagship office, but it probably is biggest in terms of revenue and people. So I have to sort of think and feel that it’s one of the most important seats around the table, with exception to Bob (Jeffrey’s).

On relationships: yeah, I do actually. I think it’s important that you hear from me that I think they did a great job. It’s about standing on everyone’s shoulders. I think the relationships will be different than Rose and Ty. We’re looking for a creative partner. I’m effectively replacing Rose. We still need to replace Ty. Can’t talk about who &#151 but we’ve only been able to start thinking about that since it became official when Ty left.

AgencySpy: The two companies you worked for prior to JWT &#151 Omnicom’s Zulu Network and before that &#151 aren’t doing well. Zulu is gone and has lost much of its prominence. How do you respond to critics who question your leadership abilities?

Eastman: Interesting question. First Zulu went as a name, because I decided that it should go. And I moved [Claydon] Heeley into Target Base and there’s an article about me that I read with much amusement and there are untruths in it that I haven’t reacted to. I left awhile ago now and the fact that they’re not doing well now can’t be attributed to me. The time that I left was a fairly large time for the TBWA network. [They were] trying to figure out what to do with digital and I’m sure we’re all trying to figure out what to do now.

For details on Ryan and Montague’s departure, click here.