WhittmanHart Names Skinner CEO

NEW YORK Independent WhittmanHart has named David Skinner CEO of the interactive digital agency.

The appointment of Skinner, 42, comes eight months after WhittmanHart founder and CEO Bob Bernard passed away. Subsequently, the Chicago-based company reassessed its strategy, deciding to separate its agency and consulting businesses. WhittmanHart Interactive, the agency business, employs about 200 people; WhittmanHart Consulting has about the same number.

“The marketplace has really shifted,” said Skinner, who was president of the company. “We used to sell both to the chief technology officer or the chief information officer, and it used to be project based. Today the person I’m selling to is a chief marketing officer, who wants a brand steward that understands their business and is truly a marketing partner.”

WhittmanHart has a roster of big-name clients, including Harley-Davidson, Toyota and Anheuser-Busch.

As a full-service shop, it has its roots in Web design, which it complemented with a broadband operation through the acquisition of DNA Studios in September 2006. That has allowed that agency to do work like the launch of Scion Broadband, a streaming Web channel Toyota unveiled last December, and live video feeds from the Sturgis motorcycle rally for Harley-Davidson this summer.

WhittmanHart is one of a smattering of midsize digital shops left after a spate of acquisitions in the sector that have seen large independent shops like Avenue A/Razorfish and Digitas find new homes, along with midsize agencies like Schematic, Refinery and, most recently, Blast Radius.

“I get a lot of phone calls and a lot of people interested in what we’re doing,” Skinner said. “For now, we’re listeners.”

Skinner, a Leo Burnett executive for a decade, said he would concentrate on growing the agency both geographically and in capabilities. Earlier this month, WhittmanHart opened an office in New York, adding to outposts it has in seven U.S. cities. He is also exploring international markets and has plans to strengthen the shop’s work in search marketing and social networking.

“We’re fully focused on the interactive space,” Skinner said. “That’s beneficial to our clients.”