Hill Holliday Names a New Strategy Chief

Graham Ritchie hails from Publicis Mojo in Auckland

Hill Holliday’s new chief strategy officer is a New Zealander who’s entering the U.S. market for the first time.

Graham Ritchie spent the bulk of his career in Australia and New Zealand, most recently as a managing partner at Publicis Mojo in Auckland. He’s familiar with U.S. brands, however, having worked on Coke in the past.

At Hill Holliday, Ritchie fills the vacancy left by the October 2012 exit of Baba Shetty and becomes part of a leadership team that includes CEO Karen Kaplan, chief creative officer Lance Jensen, chief media officer Cindy Stockwell, managing directors Leslee Kiley and Kerry Benson and director of marketing Chris Wallrapp. In his new job, he oversees a department of 38 strategic planners who work on brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Bank of America, John Hancock and Cadillac.

Ritchie joins the Boston-based agency as it defends its Liberty Mutual business. The other contenders for the creative portion of the account are McCann Erickson, mcgarrybowen, Mullen and Havas Worldwide, according to sources. The media finalists have yet to be determined.

On the plus side, Hill Holliday was a key player on an Interpublic Group team that won Cadillac’s creative account in June. This year, the full-service shop also has added TripAdvisor’s media business and creative responsibilities on Capella University, DressBarn, Necco and Crabbies, a European malt beverage that’s entering the U.S. market.

Among the challenges facing Ritchie in his new job is scale: the largest department he managed previously had less than 20 people. The speed and competitiveness of the U.S. marketplace also can be relentless. He said he feels like he’s in good hands, though, with partners like Jensen and Kaplan.

“Great things come out of great partnerships,” said Ritchie, 48. “In a funny way, an agency is almost like a band. If a band is tight, they like each other and they like the same style of music, some pretty interesting things will come out of it.”

Similarly, Ritchie described his management style as “you and I together are smarter than just me.” Well, the Liberty Mutual pitch certainly represents an early opportunity for the new team to test that thought.

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