Cowdell Succeeds Neslund as N.A. CEO at Mindshare

NEW YORK WPP Group’s Mindshare today confirmed that its North American CEO Scott Neslund is leaving the agency, succeeded by shop veteran Phil Cowdell.

The latter will report to Mindshare’s global chief executive Dominic Proctor. Neslund is departing to pursue other interests, the agency said.

Cowdell, 44, most recently was one of Mindshare’s global client leaders, a role in which he helped key accounts and their agency teams evolve their marketing communications strategies.

He has also been involved in new business development, recently spearheading Mindshare’s successful global pitch for Intercontinental Hotels Group, which tapped the agency in March.

Cowdell, currently based in Mindshare’s Chicago office, will relocate to New York.

As head of Mindshare N.A., Cowdell will be responsible for the management and operation of all agency activities in five U.S. cities and Canada, overseeing an operation with almost 600 employees and an estimated $8.7 billion in billings, per Adweek research.

“Phil is uniquely qualified for this important and challenging job,” said Proctor in a statement.  “His extensive experience with global clients and the breadth of his accomplishments are virtually unsurpassed within Mindshare’s current ranks.”

Before moving to Chicago, Cowdell led the media operation of Team Detroit, the joint venture among WPP agencies JWT, Young & Rubicam, Ogilvy & Mather, Wunderman and Mindshare that services the Ford account. In that role, he led the media portion of the business across the company’s Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Mazda nameplates, which account for more than $3 billion in billings.
Before relocating to Detroit in 2006, Cowdell was a worldwide managing partner and Mindshare’s global head of planning in London, where he spent seven years and ran the global Unilever business. Previously, Cowdell ran the Procter & Gamble account at Starcom MediaVest Group in London, where he was responsible for SMG’s local planning and buying assignments across the EMEA region.

Neslund was named N.A. CEO in February 2007, having run Mindshare’s Chicago office for almost two years previously. In the statement, Proctor thanked him for his service to the agency and wished him well.

Mindshare declined to comment beyond its statement confirming the change. But recession aside, 2009 has been a tough year for the shop. Last week, it lost its estimated $250 million Wrigley account — an assignment Neslund brought to the agency — when parent Mars consolidated its media account with Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest. Last month, client Bristol-Myers Squibb put its $170 million assignment into review. Earlier, the shop made an aggressive run at Home Depot but came up short (incumbent Initiative retained it) and in the middle of that pitch lost its star planner Ernie Simon who jointed Omnicom’s OMD.

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