Leadership changes lead to attrition at the top of Ogilvy Health

Ogilvy Health has seen turnover at the executive level since new global leadership took over a year ago.

Leadership changes lead to attrition at the top of Ogilvy Health

The changes continue atop Ogilvy Health. Two more senior executives who worked on health business have left the agency in recent weeks. 

Seven-year Ogilvy veteran Ritesh Patel, chief digital officer, health, for Ogilvy Consulting, and Andrew Thorn, EVP, head of planning at Ogilvy Health, left the company this month. Thorn arrived at Ogilvy from Real Chemistry, then known as W2O, in December.

Their departures followed the June exit of Ogilvy Health CEO Kate Cronin, a nearly 10-year Ogilvy vet who stepped down to become chief brand officer at Moderna. Cronin was replaced by parent WPP’s EVP of global clients Kim Johnson.

Patel was officially part of Ogilvy Consulting, although his work was focused on digital transformation for healthcare clients - pharma companies, payers and health systems, among others. He also led Ogilvy Health’s point of care group.

But his reason for resigning was one echoed by others interviewed for this story: Wholesale change and fewer familiar faces tend to make people consider their options. 

“For me, it was a personal situation in Consulting; it had nothing to do with the Health agency at all,” Patel said. “Mine was a seven-year itch. I saw changes in Consulting and decided maybe the time was right for me to go.” 

Those changes accelerated after Andy Main took over as global CEO last June. Main, a Deloitte Digital veteran, proceeded to reorganize health from a standalone entity into one of five business practices, alongside PR, experience, growth/innovation and advertising/brand/content. 

Main moved swiftly to appoint new leadership. After naming Cronin as CEO of Ogilvy Health in October, he tapped former McCann exec Devika Bulchandani as North America CEO and chair of global advertising in November, then former Leo Burnett exec Liz Taylor as global chief creative officer in May. 

As Main built out the top tier, resignations began percolating through the ranks. The longtime president of Ogilvy’s NY office, Lauren Crampsie, resigned in May. The agency has since elevated Carina De Blois to replace her. 

Jason Lonsdale, who headed up brand strategy and planning, left Ogilvy for Deutsch LA this month, shortly after Ben Richards, formerly global chief strategy officer, said he was stepping down to start a new venture. Ogilvy’s global group planning director Jonathan Daly also  departed this month, for a senior role at Droga5. Edward Kim, who headed up commerce, left Ogilvy Consulting for MRM in June. 

If many of Ogilvy’s acquisitions were high-altitude talents, several of the departures lived closer to the shop floor. More than a few of the new faces weren't well-connected below the C-suite, sources said. In a sense, Ogilvy lost lieutenants and gained generals. 

This dynamic played out at Ogilvy just as the post-pandemic labor market began to open up. The percentage of Americans leaving their jobs for new opportunities reached 2.7% in April, translating into 7.5 million workers. That sum represented the highest level in decades, according to the Labor Department.

That means the advertising industry, like many other sectors, is facing an unprecedented talent exodus. Ogilvy has been a beneficiary of that macro trend, one company exec argued. 

To that point, Bob Poulin was hired this month to lead Ogilvy’s DC government practice, which counts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention among its public health clients. Earlier this month, Ogilvy's former group MD, government practice lead Tony Silva left to become public sector GM at Edelman.

All told, Ogilvy Health has hired more than 75 people year-to-date with 40 roles open across disciplines, the company reported.

Additionally, Renata Florio was promoted to chief creative officer for Ogilvy Health in the U.S.; Shannon Walsh to president of PR for Ogilvy Health in North America; Nick Cavarra to head of new business for Ogilvy Health; and Wendy Turner to chief creative officer for Ogilvy Health for Canada.

The consumer arm of Ogilvy recently named Anibal Casso, a veteran of Wieden + Kennedy, Droga5 and 72andSunny, as chief strategy officer for Ogilvy North America. The company also onboarded HR exec James Kinney as global chief DEI officer and North American chief people officer at Ogilvy. 

Additional Ogilvy hires included Edelman vet Julianna Richter as global CEO of Ogilvy PR, Erin Jacobson for the newly created role of head of digital and advocacy for North America, and Accenture exec Steve Soechtig as leader of its experience business.

Main’s effort to unite Ogilvy under his vision bears more than a passing resemblance to that of his predecessor, John Seifert, whose three-year One Ogilvy brand and business transformation effectively aimed to bring together Ogilvy’s various practices under one P&L. 

The jury is still out. Overall Ogilvy revenue saw a “marginal” decrease last year, per WPP’s annual report. According to MM+M estimates, Ogilvy Health’s revenue declined 3% in 2020, while head count fell from 750 at the end of 2019 to 700 at the end of last year. 

In a statement shared with MM+M, an Ogilvy spokesperson called the health business “one of the critical drivers” of Ogilvy’s growth strategy. The spokesperson added that, over the past year, Ogilvy Health has attracted respected talent, developed more agile ways of working and driven deeper relationships with clients.

“We are confident that under [Johnson’s] leadership, our team at Ogilvy Health will continue to build on that momentum and drive impact as we help our clients address the evolving patient and consumer needs in a rapidly changing marketplace,” said the spokesperson.

This story first appeared on MM+M.

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