Tuesday, March 19, 2024

16581: IPG = Interminable Pruning Group…?

Adweek published an interview with Kristen Cavallo, who recently relinquished her CEO role with The Martin Agency, and now announced bailing out of her Global CEO role with MullenLowe too. So, Cavallo goes from dual CEO to CUL8R ASAP.


Given the latest pruning of White advertising agencies within the IPG network, one can’t help but wonder if Cavallo dodged potential corporate rejiggering. Time will tell.


Then again, she admitted spending a year contemplating career transformations before assuming the MullenLowe Global CEO position in 2022, so her retirement from Adland could be a result of that soul searching.


“This is a glass half-full industry,” Cavallo said. “We have important skills that the world needs more of, and we need to stop beating ourselves up and start getting to work on some of those bigger issues.” Um, like diversity?


Cavallo would probably declare she’s on it.


Kristen Cavallo Retires From Advertising After 30 Years in the Industry


Cavallo will put her experience toward social and political causes


By Jameson Fleming


Throughout Kristen Cavallo’s 30-year career, she’s never backed down from an opportunity to defend creativity.


Cavallo rose to the top of the industry by leading the rebuilding of The Martin Agency into a powerhouse. But she became arguably one of the industry’s biggest provocateurs by defending agencies’ work following comments about Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad in 2022, as well as championing the value of creativity after that Snoop Dogg Solo Stove campaign earlier this year.


“I don’t know that I’ve said anything special or unique, but when I do say something, oftentimes I hear ‘you said exactly what we were thinking,’” Cavallo told ADWEEK during an hour-long interview on Friday. “The difference [is] maybe I was stupid enough or idealistic enough to say it. I hope that someone else picks up that flag.”


Cavallo is retiring from advertising, having ascended from strategic planner—at what was then Mullen Advertising—to come full circle at MullenLowe Group as global CEO. But once a strategist, always a strategist: Cavallo is leaving the industry to pursue a new kind of fulfillment.


After completing a grueling five-week 500-mile el Camino de Santiago trail in Spain, Cavallo will put her three decades of strategy experience influencing human behavior toward social and political activism. Next year, she’s working on the Virginia governorship campaign, one of 2025’s most important races in the U.S. for being “the last state in the South to protect women’s rights,” she said.


Cavallo sends a resolute message to the industry about the value of creativity through her pick of successors. Former chief creative Danny Robinson will lead The Martin Agency as CEO, while Frank Cartagena, the former CCO of The Community, will lead MullenLowe in the U.S. Alex Leikikh will return as global MullenLowe CEO.


Defending creativity


Cavallo’s formative years in advertising came during 18 months at Mullen. A stint at Arnold followed, where the agency’s 1995 “Drivers Wanted” campaign for Volkswagen hooked her on an industry where “every day is different,” she said.


“It was a different kind of car advertising. One that prioritized the people in that story just as much as it did the car,” Cavallo said. That work on VW led to her winning the 4A’s Jay Chiat Award for Strategic Excellence.


During her career, Cavallo has never shied away from defending the value of an agency’s work.


In 2022, she challenged Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong after he tweeted that no agency could have conceived of its Super Bowl ad.


As Cavallo pointed out, three of them—R/GA, Droga5 and The Martin Agency—all pitched similar ideas.


Cavallo also advocated for subscription payment methods after former client Discover was still running TV ads The Martin Agency created five years after the relationship ended.


Many agency CEOs start their careers as account execs—that path through the agency often affords staffers the best opportunity to learn how to balance client needs with the agency’s business. With her background in strategy—her first advertising internship as an account exec didn’t last the summer, she finished the internship as a strategic planner—and consistently championing creativity, Cavallo bucks industry norms.


“It’s one thing for the business world to question [the value of creativity]. It’s another thing for us to question ourselves, our own value that we provide,” Cavallo explained, adding Robinson and Cartagena know how hard, special, rare and important it is to make something that “breaks through … and makes an impression. And I hope that the industry notices that.”


Messages to a changing industry


Mass layoffs across holding company-owned creative shops and indies alike are contributing to the ad industry’s fatalistic cries growing louder.


Cavallo, however, has “done a 180 on this sense of doom and gloom,” she said.


She does see an industry morphing out of necessity, which she notes is nerve-wracking for people who cling to stability. But it’s an industry that will always be needed, especially in a “capitalistic society” that needs “to persuade people of a point of view.”


“In the last 30 years, the industry has said this is the end of itself, or the end of print, or the end of television, or the end of something as we know it,” Cavallo said. “The truth is we still have static images. They just may not live in a magazine. We still have video. It just may not live on television. We’re so quick to write ourselves off.”


Cavallo points out that the goal in every brief is to build, unify, grow or give voice to something important—all positives in her eyes.


“This is a glass half-full industry … we have important skills that the world needs more of, and we need to stop beating ourselves up and start getting to work on some of those bigger issues.”

No comments: