Agency leadership shifts as major client readies for a change in retail landscape
Susan Kim-Kirkland has been promoted to CEO of JWT Canada, replacing Tony Pigott who is taking on a global role as CEO of JWT Ethos, the agency’s social change and corporate social responsibility business.
Kim-Kirkland had spent the last eight years as executive vice-president and managing director at the Toronto-based agency.
The changes are effective immediately, and come at an interesting time for the agency; Walmart, one of its major clients, is preparing for the arrival of major competition from Target. Kim-Kirkland has led the Walmart account team, and will continue to do so for the immediate future as the retail market adjusts to Target’s debut.
“My EVP role was ensuring that the Walmart business was soaring,” Kim-Kirkland told Marketing. “I’m going to stay near to that in the short term. It’s going to be a big year for Walmart next year and there’s an expectation that the best brains in the agency will be dedicated to that.”
JWT oversees the brand, strategy and all “above-the-line” marketing for Walmart Canada.
The new CEO also said the agency will continue to focus on developing its consumer packaged goods and retail marketing expertise—two previously separate disciplines that have been merging over the last few years.
“We’ve got a great foundation Tony has built over the last 20 years,” she said. “We want to leverage that. Our retail clients are interested and desperate for rigorous CPG [expertise], and our CPG clients want the speed and innovation of retail.”
Pigott, who was also named non-executive chairman of JWT Canada as part of the leadership transition, has been with the agency for more than 30 years, serving as CEO for more than a decade. He has long made non-profit causes a part of JWT’s culture, spearheading the BrandAid project, which seeks to end poverty by marketing regionally made artisanal products to the broader global market with a bit of celebrity power. In 2010, the project was shortlisted in Cannes in the coveted Titanium & Integrated competition.
“He has been instrumental in growing the agency threefold since taking on the [CEO] role in 1999,” said David Eastman, CEO of JWT North America, in a statement. “His leadership on social change and his passion for JWT Ethos is known throughout the company, and we are confident he will build a world-leading practice across the global network in his new role.”
Pigott founded the Ethos division in Toronto 10 years ago. According to the company, Ethos “combines social change expertise with the creative talent of the JWT network to help clients harness the power of brand strategy, ideas and activation for social impact and competitive advantage.”
The creation of a global CEO position, Pigott said, is an expression of the network’s faith in its ability to drive business.
“This is about building the practice worldwide,” Pigott said. “We have been discussing with global management this opportunity for the better part of four years. It’s always been understood that this this is an emerging brand need.”
Last year, JWT expanded Ethos to its London and Atlanta offices and now has plans to bring it to other regional hubs.
“Each of our hub offices is determined to launch an Ethos practice. That includes Deli, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Sao Paulo,” he said.
In Canada, Ethos has done work for clients such as Tim Horton’s, Nestle and ParticipAction.