DDB Worldwide has appointed Alex Lubar as global CEO, effective immediately, as Marty O’Halloran moves into the role of chairman.
Additionally, Glen Lomas, currently CEO of DDB EMEA, will move into Lubar’s previous role of global president and chief operating officer while continuing to oversee the region from London.
Lubar joined DDB as global president and chief operating officer just over a year ago as part of a succession plan put in place by O’Halloran, a 38-year veteran of the network. Lubar had spent the previous 10 years at McCann across various roles, most recently as president of North America.
O’Halloran has helmed DDB as global CEO since July 2020, when he stepped into the role from his position as CEO of Australia and New Zealand. He replaced Wendy Clark, who left a few months prior to join Dentsu as CEO of the Americas.
O’Halloran steps into the chairman role as he looks to spend more time in his home country of New Zealand after nearly four decades with the network.
“When I took on this role, I always said it would be for a defined period. It was the middle of COVID, so it was really to set up the business plan for DDB’s future,” he told Campaign US. “I said, ‘I’ll do this for four years, and I’ll guarantee that I’ll find a successor and transition that person into the new role.’ And 12 months ago I hired Alex with that in mind, and he’s done a great job.”
O’Halloran said he plans to be an active chairman and will split his time between New York, where he has an apartment, and “Down Under.”
“I’m not moving anywhere in a hurry,” he added.
As global CEO, Lubar will continue to elevate DDB’s creative offering by hiring great talent and driving more collaboration across its offices. He wants to build on DDB’s creative momentum after the agency was recognized as network of the year in Cannes and No. 1 in the U.S. Effies this year.
“We need to continue to build on that and to ensure that all of our markets are delivering the best possible creative product,” he said. “We want to be best in class locally, but also highly connected on a global level, because that’s where we really succeed.”
In North America, Lubar has already made his mark at DDB in his first year at the network, overseeing the merger of DDB New York and Adam&Eve DDB New York in May and hiring its new leader, Caroline Winterton, as CEO. He also hired Emma Montgomery as CEO of DDB Chicago in May.
He has had his work cut out for him in the region, where a slew of DDB senior leaders, including North America CEO Justin Thomas-Copeland, DDB Chicago CEO Andrea Diquez and DDB New York president Darla Price, among others, have all exited in the past year.
According to Lubar, DDB is now focused on strengthening its global teams as well as teams at the local market agencies versus investing in regional leadership roles. The global team will be split between New York, where Lubar is based, and London, where Lomas lives.
“We have somewhat moved away from the regional model,” he said. “The focus is, how do we continue to build up the offerings within the agencies themselves? That's where the investment should go, certainly when it comes to leadership and creative talent.”
Lubar said he plans to handle the transition for talent “with the utmost respect,” and will spend time traveling with O’Halloran and Lomas to all of DDB’s markets.
As for clients, he has already worked with most and will support them with the help of global client leads. “You just try to avoid surprises,” he said.
Lomas has worked at DDB for 28 years, after joining the UK office, then known as BMP DDB. The agency went on to become DDB UK and then Adam & Eve/DDB, following the acquisition of Adam & Eve in 2012.
As chief executive and president of DDB in EMEA, Lomas has played a key role in overseeing the growth of Adam & Eve/DDB and leadership changes. DDB EMEA won regional network of the year at Cannes Lions 2023.
“It has always been a privilege to work at DDB and it is a great honor to take on this role. DDB has always been where brilliant, unpretentious people turn up each day to apply their creativity to solving problems," Lomas said.
“The problems and solutions change, but that culture doesn't. I love what this network is capable of when it comes together, as demonstrated this year at Cannes, and Alex and I are here to ensure that spirit continues and the network keeps evolving to attract the most ambitious talent and clients."
Both Lubar and Lomas are British.
For O’Halloran, who describes himself as “sort of part of the fabric of the organization” after four decades with DDB, creating a sound succession plan was critical. He said he spent a few years looking for the right person for the job and that Lubar’s human and intellectual qualities make him the right fit.
He added that all of DDB’s offices have succession plans in place, and that Lomas’ elevation to Lubar’s previous role is part of the global leadership succession plan.
“A lot of leaders are afraid of hiring people who are better than them; that new breed of talent who is going to take [the organization] forward,” he said. “You have to be bold and confident and surround yourself with amazing talent. We’re putting leaders under that pressure to go, ‘Are you hiring people that will eventually take your role?’ That’s how you have to think.”
“Any business in any industry benefits from that level of thoughtful succession as opposed to what we often see, which is responsiveness and reaction to drama,” Lubar added.