NEW YORK: Omnicom Public Relations Group has named Chris Foster as CEO, effective on June 28.
Foster will oversee Omnicom Group’s PR portfolio, focusing on talent, innovation and cross-agency collaboration to drive growth. Interim CEO John Doolittle will become chairman of OPRG. Foster will report to Doolittle, who will continue to report to Dale Adams, chairman and CEO of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom.
The holding company’s PR firms include FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli and Marina Maher Communications.
OPRG has been seeking a CEO since January 2020, when former chief executive Karen van Bergen departed that role to become dean of Omnicom University. DAS CEO Doolittle was named interim chief executive at that time.
Foster noted that he will use his first 60 days for “discovery and diving into the work.”
“In addition to getting to know the agencies better, evaluating our strategic priorities and identifying opportunities for growth, I am looking forward to digging into our client challenges and working with clients to provide value where I can,” said Foster.
Omnicom Group's PR firms reported an organic revenue dip of 3.5% year-over-year in Q1 to $317.5 million. Those results were in comparison to the largely pre-COVID-19 Q1 2020 in which Omnicom’s PR revenue was up 0.2% organically on the year prior to $331.6 million.
Foster is set to join OPRG from WPP’s BCW, where he has served as president of North America since March 2018, when Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe merged. Previously, he was Burson’s worldwide EVP and chief business development officer. Foster has had other stints at Burson: from 2007 to 2010, he was an MD in, and subsequently chair of, the firm’s U.S. healthcare practice, and from 1998 to 2001, Foster was a director in the healthcare practice.
Between 2010 and 2015, Foster worked at management consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, most recently as SVP, leading an 800-person team. He was also a PRWeek Power List honoree in 2018.
Being one of the top execs in the agency world is a “huge responsibility,” noted Foster.
“As far as being a black executive, I will use my voice and position where I can to influence real change,” Foster said. “The PR industry has been on a very exciting journey. I have allowed myself to be hopeful about where we are now but there is a lot of work to be done.”
He added that the future seems “quite bright” for the PR industry.
On Friday, BCW named Brooke Hovey, chief growth officer, as interim North America president, replacing Foster, amid a reorganization of its operations in the region. BCW also named Teresa Henderson COO for North America.
Foster is the latest in a string of senior-level departures from BCW. Global president of brand solutions Jim Joseph moved to McCann Health last August; global chief strategy and operations officer Ben Boyd exited to join Lowe’s as comms head in October 2020; GCI Health global CEO Wendy Lund also went client-side to Merck women’s health brand Organon; and chief client officer Kate Triggs departed in February.
In January, OPRG launched omniearnedID, a patent-pending insights to analytics platform that provides behavior-based audience intelligence, customer journeys, cultural trend analysis and prediction and the ability to map earned exposure to brand health and sales.