To lose one senior executive may be considered a misfortune, but to lose two begins to look like carelessness. Or, in the case of Kevin Roddy, chief creative officer of BBH New York, like an increasing inability to control a fast-unravelling situation.
Chairman Steve Harty was told to go, back in July. The surmise was that he had become too expensive a luxury in the wake of BBH’s sudden and unpredictable loss of the newly-won $270m Cadillac account.
Roddy on the other hand, who is well-respected and well-liked, has quit of his own volition. And clearly in uncomfortable circumstances, for John Hegarty – BBH’s creative doyen – has conceded that there were “disagreements” over the creative direction of the office – not the anodyne euphemism that routinely accompanies executive departures.
What these “disagreements” were is not entirely clear, although we may guess that lack of money – and the constraint it is imposing on freewheeling creativity – was not entirely unrelated to the bust-up. It is known that a number of creative directors under Roddy have been discreetly looking around recently – testimony that the creative department has not been a happy working environment for some time. Roddy may well have been overstretched. After six years serving as chief creative officer, his duties were extended earlier this year to helping the new chief executive – and former planner – Greg Anderson with the day-to-day running of the agency.
Interestingly, Roddy had this to say to Ad Age last week, before the storm broke: “Creativity used to be put on a pedestal, and I don’t think that’s the case any more. Creative people have become more of a commodity, and I think that takes the wind out of them. The creative ego is a very important thing, because it drives talent. But it’s also a very fragile thing.”
Like Harty, Roddy lent American credibility to what, in the opinion of critics, was too-British an operation. Roddy, however, is a much more serious loss.