More strife for BBH as New York creative chief Kevin Roddy exits

If you’ve got a problem you need to deal with it and Bartle Bogle Hegarty is trying to grasp a rather big and obstreperous bull by the horns at its flagship New York agency.

Creative director Kevin Roddy is leaving after what global creative director John Hegarty calls a fundamental disagreement between the two, rather than the usual ‘someone has decided to leave to pursue their interests in stamp collecting.’

Roddy follows hard on the heels of another top exec, group chairman Steve Harty, who was bounced out shortly after the agency lost its Cadillac account to fellow Publicis Groupe agency Fallon.

It’s been quite clear for a while that all is not well with BBH’s North American operation. The loss of a few bits of valuable business can’t explain it all (Publicis has enough money to tide them over that). Is it that the operation was too British and not American enough or that BBH tried to be too American with people like Harty (who had been there for ages to be fair) and Roddy and thereby lost its identity?

In February BBH New York reorganised in the wake of winning Cadillac (General Motors’ new Mr Shifter Joel Ewanick came along shortly afterwards and fired the agency) with Brit Emma Cookson moving up from CEO to chairman, planner Greg Anderson taking over as CEO and Harty being shuffled aside to run group bits.

We’ve yet to hear from either Harty or Roddy. As for those left standing, Cookson and in particular Anderson, there’s pressure in spades.

And also for the ultimate management of BBH, remaining founders Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty and worldwide boss Simon Sherwood. At the moment the agency is 49 per cent owned by benevolent uncle Publicis.

It’s certain that famously laid-back Publicis boss Maurice Levy, who fought hard to keep Cadillac within the Publicis group, is taking a keen interest in these events.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.