The appointment comes as the agency bids to handle more consumer brand work.
Penny McDonald, currently editorial director of customer magazine publisher Publicis Blueprint, joins on 5 March.
CEO Alan Edwards described her appointment as ‘a message both internally and externally to say that we are not complacent - and we are serious about growth.'
McDonald said her role would involve ‘overseeing strategy across the portfolio', as well as new business.
She has spent more than 20 years in publishing, including 13 years as a Telegraph Group journalist. She was the launch editor of Redwood Publishing's Sky customer magazine in 1993, and later became publicity director for Redwood.
During more than three years at Publicis, McDonald's clients have included Asda, Toni & Guy and VisitBritain.
Edwards said he had known McDonald since her Telegraph days and has often tried to hire her: ‘She is a fantastic motivator and great at promoting brands,' he said.