Ogilvy hires Burson-Marsteller vet James Atkins to lead U.S. corporate

Atkins most recently worked at Marathon Strategies.

NEW YORK: Ogilvy has hired James Atkins as executive director in charge of its U.S. corporate practice.

Based in New York, Atkins will work to drive business growth across the U.S. and develop the practice’s capabilities. He started in the position at the beginning of the year.

Atkins will handle Ogilvy’s Citizen Bank account with Jennifer Risi, Ogilvy’s worldwide chief communications officer and MD of media influence, and the CFA Institute account with Michele Anderson, PR and influence lead for Ogilvy U.S.

Atkins is reporting to Risi with a dotted line to Anderson. Risi and Anderson recruited Atkins after the two Ogilvy executives talked midway through last year about the need for a senior corporate leader with experience in reputation and issues management in New York, Risi said. Their search continued into the fall, when they landed on Atkins, who was then MD at public affairs shop Marathon Strategies.

The last person to hold the role of U.S. corporate head was Gaston Terrones Dimant, Risi said.

"[Atkins’] experience in issues and crisis management, public affairs, and senior C-suite counsel will be a great resource to our Fortune 500 client roster," Anderson said. "He will also play a key role in our integrated assignments across the Ogilvy network."

Ogilvy isn’t typically associated with financial communications, corporate comms, issues management, or crisis work, Risi said, so one of its challenges is to educate the market on its work and corporate clients.

"We’re filling a need and bringing in additional senior talent for corporate issues-driven work," Risi said. "It’s a huge growth area for not just PR globally, but specifically in the U.S."

Atkins said he was eager to "get back into the big, integrated world."

"The breadth and scale of the work involved was exciting. I was intrigued by the opportunity, based on my experience of working with Ogilvy when I was still at Burson-Marsteller," he added.

Atkins held several executive roles at Burson after serving as a senior adviser to the majority center-right political group at the European Parliament. Atkins’ past clients include the Coca-Cola Company, Uber, Samsung, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and the Rezidor Hotel Group, according to his biography.

Atkins worked at Burson-Marsteller for 12 years before WPP merged the agency with Cohn & Wolfe to form Burson Cohn & Wolfe. Atkins said he left before the merger took place.

Ogilvy consolidated all of its agency brands, including the former Ogilvy Public Relations, under a single P&L starting in early 2017. This month, global PR lead Stuart Smith said he is leaving the firm to serve as chief marketing and growth officer at health food company Vegolutionary Foods. Ogilvy CEO John Seifert said he will take over Smith’s role in the interim, but expects to install a full-time PR lead by the end of Q1.

Ogilvy posted an estimated $378 million in PR revenue in 2017, up 1% compared with the year prior.

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