Lee Newman spent eight years as U.S. CEO of MullenLowe
By Ad Ageat
GSD&M has hired former MullenLowe executive Lee Newman as president. The role, vacant for more than two years, had been held by Marianne Malina, who was named North American president of 72andSunny last year.
Newman served as MullenLowe’s U.S. CEO for eight years before exiting earlier this year. He previously served three years as president of Ogilvy’s Chicago office and was managing director of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam.
This move marks a return to GSD&M for Newman, who was a senior VP and group account director of the Omnicom Group agency from 2005 to 2008, leading the agency’s BMW account.
Newman’s appointment was made by Duff Stewart, who will remain CEO of the agency, which has a little over 400 employees in its Austin and Chicago offices. Stewart called Newman an “agency builder,” noting that during his time at MullenLowe Newman helped build out the agency’s social media and behavioral science practices.
“It’s a new chef and that means new recipes,” Stewart said. “That’s an opportunity to think about things differently and bring a different perspective. He also was a big part of the success that MullenLowe had working with Mediahub and we have integrated media here. In my conversations with Lee, I think we’ve shared the vision that we can elevate to continue to offer clients on a broader scale.”
As part of the move, GSD&M is also promoting Nancy Ryan—who has been with the agency for 27 years—to the newly created role of chief client officer. She previously served as senior VP, managing director. Her previous role won’t be filled.
Newman said he was attracted to the types of clients GSD&M has and the offerings that it has built since he left the shop over a decade ago. Stewart will be looking for Newman to help integrate its media offering across more clients. Some key clients for the agency include Capital One, Southwest Airlines and Pizza Hut, which recently named Mischief @ No Fixed Address as its social agency of record.
Newman will also be focused on business development and growing awareness of the agency’s capabilities and work.
“There’s an opportunity to raise a profile and just get more spotlight on the highly effective work that this agency is doing in all kinds of different channels,” Newman said.
In August, GSD&M was named TikTok agency of record for the drinkware brand Stanley and has begun to create work on the platform for the brand.
In general, new business has been challenging for agencies and Stewart admitted it has gotten more competitive over the years as agencies have become more sophisticated with their use of data.
“Every agency has upped their game in the last few years as we have gotten better and better at delivering for our clients through data that really informs [the work],” Stewart said. “Understanding audiences and getting those insights leads to a tougher playing field. It’s been a challenging year, but we’re pleased with what we’ve done. We’re growing as an agency. Do you always want to grow more? Yes, I would like to grow more, but we’ve had a good year.”
In September, GSD&M also brought back another former employee, Dave Zwickerhill, to lead its data and analytics offering, as VP group director of decision sciences. Zwickerhill previously worked at GSD&M from 2016 to 2022. He spent one year at Code and Theory as senior director, data, analytics, research, and testing, before returning to GSD&M.
“He’s helped set up a number of systems for us, particularly some of the tech stacks that we’ve built out for clients,” Stewart said. “He’s currently helping us to develop some tools that I think will reinforce what we share with the market as to our point of difference and how we can in fact measure that and prove to you that we have successfully driven [the client’s] business, not just the typical KPIs of your revenue and sales … but real measurements that make up a brand and that tell the whole story of the brand and the brand’s health.”