Krakowsky is leader in waiting at Interpublic as ad holding companies change at the top

After years of relative stasis the guard is finally changing at the top of the ad holding companies. Interpublic, helmed by Michael Roth since 2005, has appointed Philippe Krakowsky to the newly-created post of COO, a pretty clear sign that he’s marked out as Roth’s successor.

WPP also has a new CEO in Mark Read – who took over rather sooner than expected from WPP founder Sir Martin Sorrell – while Arthur Sadoun has succeeded Maurice Levy at Publicis Groupe, although Levy remains in the wings. Tim Andree has taken over from Jerry Buhlmann at Dentsu Aegis Network.

COO, or number two to the CEO, is not always a comfortable position of course. A number of equivalents at Publicis came and went before Sadoun got the top job.

Krakowsky (above) has served his time at IPG though, for the last three years as CEO of media operation Mediabrands and also IPG’s chief talent and strategy officer. He also filled in as CEO of creative network FCB in 2013. For now he’s staying as chairman of Mediabrands and will also oversee Acxiom (the data company IPG bought for $2.2bn), Carmichael Lynch, Deutsch, Hill Holliday, Huge and R/GA.

Roth says: “For more than a decade, Philippe has played a key part in major strategic strategic actions at Interpublic that have been integral to our long-term success, and more recently he was the driving force behind our acquisition of Acxiom.” Which presumably means that no skeletons have been so far found in the Acxiom cupboard.

UM’s Daryl Lee will take over as chief executive of IPG Mediabrands and Eileen Kiernan as global CEO of UM.

Which just leaves Omnicom among the big holding companies (Havas is now part of the Vivendi empire.) Omnicom chairman and CEO John Wren still seems firmly in charge although there has been much speculation about who might eventually take over. BBDO boss Andrew Robertson has been the long-term favourite but running a quoted marcoms company these days is arguably more about massaging the share price and financial analysts than winning accounts and improving work. All the holding companies are suffering from low growth in a flat worldwide economy with clients cutting back both fees and scope of work.

The new generation of CEOs (and Krakowsky isn’t there yet) will see their role as much in terms of fending off predators (or extracting a high price from them) as building their agencies.

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