VIA Agency Names New CEO

By Patrick Coffee 

Today the VIA agency of Portland, Maine has promoted Leeann Leahy to the role of chief executive officer, effectively immediately. The move comes less than three years after VIA hired Leahy from Steve Stoute’s Translation to fill the role of president and “help take the shop to the next level.”

The new chief takes over for agency founder John Coleman, who has run the shop since 1993 and will now move into the chairman role.

Leahy began her career in planning, working in senior roles at Kirshenbaum, Saatchi & Saatchi and Margeotes Fertitta + Partners (which was later acquired by MDC Partners) before spending six years with Lowe Worldwide as EVP/global planning director and, subsequently, chief strategy officer. She joined Translation in early 2011 and served as president there for almost two years.

The release tells us that VIA has seen seen year-over-year revenue growth during Leahy’s tenure in addition to expanding its staff and signing new clients like Golden Corral, Facebook, Heinz, Elite Airways, TD Ameritrade, Pacific Life, etc.

Coleman himself writes:

“We hired Leeann away from Madison Avenue and New York City because she had a vision into what brands are looking for and what advertising professionals want in an employer, and under her leadership, The VIA Agency has grown into a coveted, creative destination for the nation’s top companies and the industry’s leading professionals.”

Beyond the new business, Leahy instituted such quirky agency features as a sabbatical program and “Free Beer & Fiction nights,” which may have led AdAge to call VIA one of the “40 best places to work in advertising & media” for 2014. The release also credits her with eliminating the traditional account management structure and “allowing teams to focus on true thought leadership and generate greater insights and inspiration for creative.”

Leahy explains her own approach, writing:

“I’ve always believed an agency should focus as much on creativity as they do on creative, and as a result of this mantra, The VIA Agency has inspired its employees to have fun and produce innovative work for clients. Our employees are now some of the most creative people in our industry and our clients see the difference in their work.”

VIA, which is unique in being employee-owned, may be best-known at the moment for its Corral campaign starring the world’s most marketable redneck Jeff Foxworthy. Other recent work includes a campaign for Three Olives Vodka that answered the age-old question “Should anyone record a cover version of Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves in London?'” with a definitive “probably not.