NEW YORK: Mark Penn, founder and principal of WPP research agency Penn, Schoen, & Berland, will be the next worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller.
Staffers are being notified today of the appointment, which is effective January 1.
Penn replaces Tom Nides, who left the agency in July to return to Morgan Stanley as chief administrative officer. Nides, who did not have prior agency experience prior to joining Burson, left the post after just eight months.
Although Penn is also an outsider of the big agency world, he noted that his firm, which he founded in 1975, has worked closely with Burson since WPP acquired it in 2001.
"I've always been part of not just researching the message but also implementing the message," he said. "Burson is a great company, and what I hope to bring is a sense of innovation, a sense of new creativity, and a sense of entrepreneurship."
Penn is perhaps best known for his work advising the Clintons. He is credited, for instance, for helping to coin the phrases "bridge to the 21st century" and "soccer moms" during President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. He has also worked on Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate run.
But Penn stressed that his experience extends beyond politics, and that he has focused on "taking aggressive political methods and applying them to commercial situations."
His corporate clients have included AT&T, Microsoft, Ford, and BP.
Howard Paster, WPP's EVP of PR, noted that Penn's public affairs background was "less relevant" in the decision than other factors.
And while the likely outcome might mean more public affairs work for Burson, the hire wasn't part of a strategic decision to build that capability, he added.
"He has more chief executive relationships than anyone except for Harold Burson," Paster said.
He also emphasized that Penn implemented new technologies and measurement tools at PSB, and stressed their importance to PR agencies.
As Penn steps into office, Paster will serve as chairman of Burson's executive board.
"Mark, who we have the highest regard for, is still coming into a new position," Paster said, adding that his own role is still in flux. "We'll see how it evolves."
Penn will remain in Washington and continue to help run PSB, which will operate as a standalone division within Burson.