Agencies tap CMOs to extend growth

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Debra Coughlin is global CMO at Draftfcb, where she helps to generate new business.
Debra Coughlin is global CMO at Draftfcb, where she helps to generate new business.

The job of agency CMO is not a new one, but it is a role that is becoming more prominent as agencies aim to put themselves — as they do their clients — in the best possible light. Several shops recently appointed their first marketing chiefs, among them Draftfcb, which named Debra Coughlin, previously CMO and EVP at Citigroup's Citi Cards unit, to the position this spring. 

"Agencies are terrific about helping clients develop their brands, but not always terrific about monitoring, developing and guiding their own brands," explained Coughlin, who reports directly to Draftfcb CEO and president Laurence Boschetto. 

Coughlin brought diverse experience to the firm, having worked on both the client and agency sides. Prior to Citigroup, she was SVP of global brand-building at MasterCard, where she was a principal architect of the long-running "Priceless" campaign. She also served as senior partner and management director at JWT and SVP and global group director at Young & Rubicam.

At Draftfcb, Coughlin leads the Global Capabilities team, positioned across nine "hub" markets worldwide, with responsibility for areas ranging from strategic planning to CRM and digital. She also works closely with the worldwide creative lead, she said, "because that is our product in the marketplace." She added that she is mostly involved with winning new business.

Other recent CMO hires include Rob Kabus, former president and global head of strategy at Aegis agency Vizeum, Los Angeles, as president and CMO of agency Eleven in San Francisco. Rapp named Rachael 
Heapps, former chief creative officer at the agency, its CMO for the US, while Julia Foster, formerly director of TBWA/Dubai, rejoined her former outpost TBWA/Toronto as CMO.

The role has become more important as agencies jockey for new business in an uncertain economy. No one understands this better than Draftfcb, which in late July lost its 60-year SC Johnson & Son account to BBDO and Ogilvy & Mather. SC Johnson was its second-largest account. Numerous reports put SC Johnson's total annual global marketing spend at $1 billion. 

Kabus said the CMO job has become more visible because "the marketing environment is now in a perpetual state of change." 

"We need to ensure that our offering continues to grow and evolve in the right way and that marketplace perceptions reflect our value," he said.

Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America, who served in a CMO role at JWT, explained there's a simple reason more agencies are tapping marketing chiefs: "We're all hanging onto growth by our dear fingers." The CMO role, Salzman said, means that someone is "out there always driving growth more objectively" on behalf of the agency.

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