David Sable Tapped as New Y&R Global CEO

For the third time in eight years, WPP Group is installing a new global CEO atop Young & Rubicam.

Replacing Hamish McLennan, 44, is David Sable, 57, global vice chairman and chief operating officer of sister direct marketing/digital shop Wunderman. McLennan, who has been worldwide chairman and CEO since 2006, will remain chairman until the end of the year, when Sable will add that title, too.

The move comes after a year defined largely by client erosion, at least in the U.S., where longtime clients MetLife and 7Up exited and Accenture threw its global creative account into review. (Y&R is defending the Accenture business, which remains in review.) And although Y&R has been a finalist in several big pitches in the past few years, including UPS’s global marketing services review in 2009, the agency often has failed to convert.

That said, on McLennan’s watch, the agency did add LG, Goldman Sachs, Danone waters and new assignments from Bacardi and Virgin Atlantic.

On the creative side, McLennan in 2007 lured Tony Granger to become global chief creative officer. Since then, Y&R’s performance in the awards-show circuit has improved markedly, with, for example, the agency winning 49 Lions at Cannes last year. Thus far, however, the creative success has yet to translate into significant new business.

Since WPP acquired Y&R Inc. for $4.7 billion in 2000, the shop has had four CEOs: Mike Dolan, Ann Fudge, McLennan and now, Sable. Dolan was a former CFO, Fudge was an ex-client executive (at Kraft) and McLennan, A classic account man who previously was CEO of Y&R Brands in Australia and New Zealand.

In making the latest change, the agency cited Sable’s “reputation as one of the industry’s most innovative and progressive new media strategists.” He also leads Team Microsoft—the WPP units that work on that key global account. Also, Sable has extensive experience within the larger group of agencies known as Y&R Brands, having worked at Wunderman and public relations agencies Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe.

“His experience across our group has helped him understand more than anyone how to deliver integrated solutions across advertising, public relations, direct and relationship marketing and, critically, how the evolution of digital channels affects all of those,” said Peter Stringham, CEO of Y&R Brands.