McGuinness Leaves DDB Chicago for Chobani

Agency names Paul Gunning as new chief

The Chicago office of DDB is losing its president and CEO but filling the role with a familiar face.

Peter McGuinness, head of the office since 2011, is moving back to New York to become chief marketing and brand officer at Chobani. The move reunites him with a former client from his days as CEO of Gotham in New York. He starts in two weeks.

Assuming the top job at DDB, Chicago, is Paul Gunning, a DDB veteran who most recently was global CEO of digital unit Tribal DDB and global chief digital officer at DDB. In his previous roles, he was based in Chicago. So, DDB North American president Mark O’Brien didn’t go far to find his new office chief.

The top accounts in Chicago include McDonald’s, State Farm, Mars and Safeway. The office also works on PepsiCo brands such as Sierra Mist, SoBe and Aquafina. As CEO, Gunning will oversee about 375 staffers.

In making the move, O’Brien cited Gunning’s familiarity with the agency, its key clients and employees. In Chicago, for example, Tribal DDB works closely with DDB on accounts like McDonald’s.

Noting the client stability, momentum and new talent that the agency gained under McGuinness, O’Brien said, “My key is I don’t want to slip.”

In Gunning, however, O’Brien sees a leader who “understands the client base and can move forward.”

Gunning, for his part, describes himself as a “client guy” who has learned from the digital world that agencies need to be flexible to the needs of their clients.

As for influences, he cited DDB chairman emeritus Keith Reinhard, noting his devotion to the agency and willingness to embrace change and long-term vision. “He’s one of the greats,” said Gunning, 43.

Gunning also has been inspired by the likes of Facebook, Tumblr and Google, specifically the freedom they give their employees to think and innovate. Certainly, ad agencies can benefit from that.