Bulchandani takes top job at WPP’s Ogilvy as Main quits

It’s all change at the top of the big ad networks – Wendy Clark exiting Dentsu International (as is DI as it will be no more) and now Andy Main stepping down as global CEO of WPP’s Ogilvy to be replaced by North America boss Devika Bulchandani (below.). Bulchandani joined from McCann New York three years ago.

As with Clark’s surprise departure it all seems terribly amicable. Main, who joined from Deloitte, says: “When I joined Ogilvy, my goal was to build on the company’s incredible heritage, raise its ambitions, and deliver growth for our clients through work that has impact. Our progress is a testament to all the talented people across the network and our amazing clients for whom I have the deepest gratitude and respect.

“David Ogilvy spoke about the importance of hiring giants and Devika is truly one of the giants in the industry. It has been an honor being a part of this company’s rich history and I know Devika will continue accelerating the momentum our team has built.”

New boss Bulchandani says: “David Ogilvy changed the industry 74 years ago when he founded this iconic agency. As we write the next chapter in the history books of Ogilvy, we will do it together with our clients, using creativity to push the boundaries of what’s possible. I am honored and humbled to take on this role, and to do it with all our incredibly talented people all over the world.”

There are more warm words too from WPP CEO Mark Read: “Over the last two years, under Andy’s leadership, Ogilvy has seen a transformation in its creative and business performance. This stems from the consistently outstanding quality of work from Ogilvy’s teams around the world, the investment in attracting and developing talent across the business, and the strong and more diverse leadership team Andy has built.

“With the agency’s transformation a year ahead of the schedule we originally envisioned, Andy has decided that now is the right time to seek a new challenge and he is moving on with my personal thanks and best wishes.”

Could be just us sceptical hacks of course but there’s usually a bit going on under the surface when these things happen. Clark’s job has gone as Dentsu has decided to bring international in house. Maybe WPP has decided Bulchandani is the best person to run what is still an ad-based network (Ogilvy is still almost a holding company in its own right.) Maybe Main has decided adland isn’t a long term prospect for him.

What’s certainly true is that running a big ad network over the next 18 months to two years won’t exactly be easy street. Budgets are under pressure as the global economy is battered by high inflation. The share prices of the holding companies are entering dangerous territory too – WPP is now valued at just over £8bn, about half what it was in Sir Martin Sorrell’s last days even though its performance seems pretty good. Ogilvy itself has done pretty well too, this week winning SC Johnson creative with WPP sibling VMLY&R.

But there’s no doubt the pressure is well and truly on at the holding companies.

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