A year and a half after returning to TBWA Worldwide as global creative president and chief creative officer of the agency’s New York office, Chris Garbutt has been named chief creative officer of the Omnicom agency network.
In his new position, Garbutt assumes the global creative leadership of the company, a role long held by John Hunt, the agency's worldwide creative director and co-founder of TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, who now becomes creative chairman.
"He deserves it. He’s done an amazing effort in 18 months," said Troy Ruhanen, president and CEO of TBWA Worldwide. "It’s been quite a turnaround in terms of the quality of our work, the way in which we work and in the client relationships as well."
Garbutt has energized the network, said Ruhanen, elevating the craft, spirit and bench strength of the agency worldwide, both in its ability to attract talent and retain and grow client relationships. The agency more than doubled its revenue in New York since Garbutt joined the company, he said. And Garbutt played a key role in several new business wins, including TD Bank, Intel and Adidas running.
During Garbutt’s tenure as global president, TBWA also saw an uptick in satisfaction among top clients, according to an independent survey, noted the CEO. The network, which counts Accenture, Apple, McDonald’s, Michelin and Nissan among its global clients, also improved in its creative awards performance.
TBWA more than doubled its wins at the One Show and D&AD this year, coming in as the 5th top network at the One Show, up from 12th last year, and ranking third at D&AD. "We’re very happy with that and it shows consistency across the network," said Ruhanen.
The network also improved its peformance at Cannes last year, winning 40 percent more Lions at the festival than the previous year, said the agency.
"It’s rewarding to see that momentum is growing," said Garbutt.
To formally assume creative leadership of the network from Hunt is especially poignant for Garbutt, who began his career at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris. An art director by trade, the Cape Town native later moved to TBWA\Paris, where, as executive creative director, he produced celebrated work for clients such as Nissan, Absolut and Playstation. "It’s a huge honor," he said.
The promotion was all part of a succession plan put into place when Ruhanen recruited Garbutt back to TBWA from Ogilvy in 2015. Garbutt had previously spent eight years working for the WPP agency, most recently as chief creative officer in New York and before that in Paris, where he produced noted work for clients such as Dove, Google, Perrier, Louis Vuitton and IBM. His successes at Ogilvy and TBWA convinced Ruhanen, named CEO of the the agency in 2014, that Garbutt was the right candidate to inherit the creative reigns from Hunt.
"Chris had been part of the company in South Africa and Paris and our experience with him was fantastic," said Ruhanen. "He’s always been part of our family, and we wanted to make sure we had someone who knew our culture incredibly well and also wanted to take it to a new level."
Hunt said he is "enormously proud" to pass the torch to Garbutt. "Chris has been an incredible leader for TBWA," he said. "There is a nice creative mojo right now. TBWA should always have a strong creative heartbeat and Chris can make it beat even faster or harder."
Hunt will continue to work with Garbutt in an advisory role as creative chairman and play a key role for the network in Africa and on the agency’s recently won MTN telco business.