What’s an Appropriate Notice Period for Outgoing Agency Execs?

3 months might be a more reasonable cooling off period

So, not every top executive who leaves a WPP Group or Publicis Groupe agency has to wait six months before starting a new gig.

Peter Sherman will join Omnicom Group as an evp in June, just three months after he resigned as North American CEO of WPP’s JWT. He successfully negotiated a shorter notice period, which typically runs six months for a WPP agency exec at that level, according to sources.

And while a three-month wind down is common practice at Interpublic Group and Omnicom, it is rare at WPP and Publicis, which usually hold onto their outgoing execs longer, linking the notice period to the length of time that severance is paid.

Carter Murray, for example, resigned in March 2013 as North American CEO of WPP’s Young & Rubicam, but didn’t start as global CEO of Interpublic’s Draftfcb until September. Conversely, Gustavo Martinez quit as European and Asian president of Interpublic’s McCann Worldgroup in November and joined JWT as global president in February.

Will Sherman’s quicker exit change the practice at WPP? Industry attorney Rick Kurnit isn’t counting on it, though he feels three months is a more reasonable cooling off period before changing teams.

“If you can make an exception and it doesn’t hurt the agency or the shareholders, then how necessary is it to inflict an extraordinarily long garden leave on your people?” Kurnit said. “That’s, I think, the question.”