BBH shake-up: Annette King to chair global board as CEO Neil Munn exits

Arto Hampartsoumian, managing partner and executive chairman of Publicis Groupe China, Christine Ng, chairwoman of BBH Singapore and China and Sid Tuli, managing director of BBH Singapore are part of the board

Oct 08, 2021 04:40:00 AM | Article | Gideon Spanier Share - Share to Facebook

Neil Munn, the global chief executive of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, is to step down and Annette King, chief executive of Publicis Groupe UK, is to become chair of a new global board of BBH as part of a management shake-up.

Publicis Groupe said it wants BBH to give more power to the agency’s leaders in local markets while setting up the new board to “maintain global connectivity” between BBH’s seven offices around the world.

The global board will “continue to drive the power of creativity across the agency’s key markets” and seek to increase collaboration with other parts of Publicis Groupe, such as digital transformation business Sapient and data arm Epsilon.

Munn will not be replaced when he leaves at the end of this year after seven years as global CEO and 15 years at the agency.

Instead, King will chair the new, eight-strong global board “in partnership with” Joakim (Jab) Borgström, worldwide chief creative officer at BBH.

The other members of the new BBH global board are: Karen Martin, chief executive of BBH London; Amani Duncan, president of BBH USA; Arto Hampartsoumian, managing partner and executive chairman of Publicis Groupe China; Christine Ng, chairwoman of BBH Singapore and China; Sid Tuli, managing director of BBH Singapore; and Adam Arnold, global chief marketing officer of BBH.

In a statement, Publicis Groupe said: “The move [from global CEO to global board] will give BBH access to the Groupe’s significant resources and capabilities, enabling it to operate under a local P&L [profit-and-loss model], continuing to bring clients creative excellence that is relevant and forward-facing.

“The move further signifies the critical role creativity plays within Publicis’ offering to clients, and the company’s steadfast commitment to maintain the rich and diverse cultures and offering of its creative agencies.”

Sources close to Publicis Groupe insisted that dropping the global CEO role in favour of the new board should not be seen as a negative move and they continue to cherish the BBH brand and want to maintain its integrity.

BBH previously had another board that was largely involved in corporate governance and included finance chiefs from both BBH and Publicis Groupe, whereas the new board is focused on championing creativity, diversity and business transformation, insiders said.

“At BBH it is all about the work”

BBH is one of the most celebrated agency brands in UK advertising with a “black sheep” logo to differentiate itself.

The founders, John Bartle, Sir Nigel Bogle and Sir John Hegarty, set up Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 1982 and soon shot to fame with work such as "Vorsprung durch technik" for Audi and "Laundrette" for Levi's.

They went on to sell a minority stake to Publicis Groupe in 2002, before selling the remainder in 2012.

Since then, BBH has occupied an unusual place within the French parent company, which continued to give the ad agency a degree of autonomy and allowed it to operate a relatively small micro-network of offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Singapore Mumbai and Stockholm.

That has been in contrast to bigger, sister networks such as Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi, which have dozens of offices and have been more involved in group-wide efforts as part of Publicis Groupe’s “Power of One” strategy of bringing different capabilities together for clients.

Publicis Groupe said the shake-up will not alter BBH’s special status within the parent company and suggested it was more about the agency getting greater access to other resources within the parent company.

The co-founders gave a joint statement as part of the announcement about the new board.

The quote from “John, Nigel and John” said: “As the founders of this company it is very simple. At BBH it is all about the work. All roads must lead to better work. The prime responsibility of this new board must be to make the work better and better and available across multiple markets.”

None of the three co-founders has any involvement in the running of the agency as they all stepped back some time ago, although it is understood Bogle has provided some advice about the creation of the new global board.

Keeping the “unique BBH brand thriving and intact”

Publicis Groupe said Munn had “decided to step down”. He will remain as global CEO until the end of the year to manage the transition.

After a career at Unilever, Munn initially worked at Zag, BBH’s innovation arm.

Munn said: “Leading BBH globally for the last seven years has been an absolute privilege but I have decided that now is the right time to step back and let others carve out the next part of BBH’s future.

“I will leave feeling very proud of the fact that we have kept the unique BBH brand thriving and intact, alongside being the IPA’s Effectiveness Company of the Year for the last four years in the UK, being recognised as Ad Age’s International Agency of the Year in Singapore, and playing a key role in the fortunes of our many clients’ brands, perhaps most notably with the impressive turnaround of Tesco.”

He added: “I am also immensely grateful to all of my fellow black sheep for their brilliance and unwavering support during my time.”

Borgström has worked at BBH since 2014, including stints in both London and Singapore, and has been global chief creative officer since 2019.

King said: “BBH is a creative jewel and an iconic company. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to lead the new board in partnership with Jab. Our focus will be creatively driven from day one, across all of the markets BBH is in. I would like to thank Neil for his leadership of the brand over the past years.”

BBH, which will keep its head office in Kingly Street in central London, employs close to 1000 people globally.

King will retain her UK responsibilities. 

(This article first appeared on


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