Y&R Fills Global New Business Role

Hire comes from consultancy world

Young & Rubicam CEO David Sable has found his new business development chief at a search consultancy.

Cathy Cohan, a lead consultant at Roth Associates in New York, is now global chief growth officer at Y&R. Cohan, who started this week, fills a vacancy created when Chris Hayes left for Huge in June

Cohan, who has worked at Roth since 2007, also has agency experience, having managed new business efforts at OMD and the Atlanta offices of BBDO and JWT. But it was her work as a consultant—sizing up the strengths and weaknesses of prospective agencies for major marketers—that made her stand out to Sable.

“I felt like we needed to do something different,” Sable explained. “I’m a big 'Emperor’s New Clothes' kind of believer. You always need somebody to tell you you’re naked, because otherwise you can’t be successful. When you bring somebody in from that kind of background, they’re more apt to do that.”

Looking at the big picture, Y&R has spent “about a year and a half, a little bit more building infrastructure and really linking and networking, and this is another key piece of it,” added Sable, who became global CEO in early 2011. “We’ve put together a very tight new business network. They’re on the phone every six weeks. There’s a very robust Web community of new business [leaders] around the world. I know what’s in the pipeline at any second. Having somebody at the center of that is really important.”

Cohan’s mission at Y&R is straightforward: Get the WPP Group agency into more reviews and help the team convert more often. Of course, CEOs, creative chiefs and strategic leaders win business, not new business chiefs. But good ones, like a movie director, know how to cast each in the best light and how to inspire the best performances on pitch day. Thus is the challenge before Cohan.