VIA Hires Translation’s Leahy as President

Maine agency brings in top account planner to improve the work

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Five months after coming up short in the finals of the U.S. review for Mini Cooper, which would have been its highest-profile client yet, The VIA Agency is adding a top executive it believes can help take the shop to the next level.

Leeann Leahy is joining the Portland, Maine, agency as president and general manager, a new position.

A planner by trade, Leahy, 42, comes to VIA from Translation in New York, which she joined in 2011 as president. In that year, Translation enjoyed tremendous growth, tripling headcount while working on accounts including Bud Light, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and State Farm.

Leahy joined Translation after six years at Lowe, where she held positions including global planning director and chief strategy officer.

At VIA, Leahy's primary focus will be on the work, not on new business. She will work closely with chief knowledge officer David Burfeind and chief creative officer Greg Smith.

"In a lot of these roles, the president is the new-business person. That's not what we were looking for," VIA CEO John Coleman told Adweek. "We were looking for someone who cares about elevating the work, and keeping the work fresh and different and innovative. And that's what she's about."

Coleman said Leahy's leadership style emanates from her planning background. "She's constantly observing the markets and seeing how things are changing. And she's extremely bright. That's what we needed in this role," he said.

Coleman said the hire will free him up to focus more on new business, as well as strategy work for clients.

Leahy said she was impressed by VIA's momentum. The agency, which numbers about 100 people, grew revenue by more than 20 percent in 2010 and 35 percent in 2011. Its accounts include Welch's, Perdue, Friendly's and Romano's Macaroni Grill. It is also on the rosters of Unilever (on Klondike) and Samsung.

"I appreciate that the agency cares deeply about making bold moves on behalf of its clients and offering smart and creative solutions, and I am excited to jump in and help take the agency to the next level," Leahy said.

Leahy, who owns property in Maine and has visited regularly in recent years, is moving from New York to Portland and will start at VIA in late November or early December.

Before joining Lowe in 2005, Leahy spent eight years at Margeotes Fertitta + Partners in New York, where she was a partner and director of account planning. Before that, she worked in planning roles at Saatchi & Saatchi and Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.