Bates Taps First-Time Agency CEO

David Hearn’s first job at an advertising agency comes with an impressive title and a daunting task. The mission for the new CEO and chairman of Bates Worldwide is to “build the profile of Bates North America and win global business,” according to his boss, Michael Bungey, CEO of Bates parent Cordiant Communications Group.

Armed with a résumé full of packaged-goods experience on the client side, the 46-year-old former CEO of Australian-owned food manufacturer Goodman Fielder was appointed last week to the post that Bungey had held in addition to his current title at the London-based holding company. “Bates is a power in most of the rest of the world,” said Bungey, 62. “I want it to become a power in the States.”

The hope is that Hearn will infuse the network with a “fresh perspective.” Bungey said it was the Cordiant board that insisted he look outside the network, after initially considering Bates Worldwide president and chief operating officer Bill Whitehead for the post. Hearn’s career includes management posts at Procter & Gamble, Del Monte, Smiths Crisps, PepsiCo and United Biscuits.

Major new-business success has eluded Bates in the U.S. since its 1997 de-merger with Saatchi & Saatchi, which was meant to free Bates of conflicts with Saatchi’s clients, namely Procter & Gamble. “Bates has struggled for some time to get on multinational pitch lists in the States,” said Anthony de Larrinaga, analyst for SG Securities in London.

“The thinking is, with his experience on the client side, Hearn will understand the way they work and the things they want. He may be able to unlock some doors for them,” said Simon Lapthorne, an analyst at Old Mutual in London, adding that Hearn is Bungey’s likely successor at Cordiant.

There are only a few instances of an agency hiring a chief executive with client-only experience. Before joining Saatchi as worldwide CEO in 1997, Kevin Roberts had worked only on the client side, at Gil lette, P&G, PepsiCo and Lion Breweries. Crispin Davis, former head of Aegis Group, had client-only experience at P&G and Guinness when the media agency recruited him in the mid-’90s.

Three regional presidents of Bates Worldwide will report to Hearn. Whitehead, 56, will relinquish his worldwide role to become regional president of the Americas. Ian Smith, 46, formerly CEO of Cordiant interactive unit CCG.XM, will oversee Bates’ Asia Pacific operations. Toby Hoare, chairman of Bates U.K., will also take on the post of regional president of Bates Europe.