Mowday up, Moore down and Riley across from OMD in DDB’s senior management restructure—UPDATED

After around three years in the role of managing director at DDB, Justin Mowday has moved up the chain and been named as chief executive, with Sandy Moore, who has been with the agency for 23 years—and at the top since 2007—stepping back to a part-time role. And in another big change, Mowday will be working closely with Chris Riley, who is moving from his role as managing director at OMD into the newly created role of chief operating officer. 

DDB Australia and New Zealand chairman and chief executive Marty O’Halloran says the restructuring of the management team is a ”well-orchestrated transition” that it’s been working towards since hiring Mowday. 

“We hired him as the heir apparent. So we feel the time is right for Sandy to cut back and Justin to have some more responsibility … Sandy is not really retiring. He doesn’t want to retire, so he’s still working three days a week and will still be an invaluable part of the senior management team.” 

Moore, who says stepping back will give him a bit more “me time” and allow him to focus on other directorships with the likes of Ronald McDonald House and the New Zealand Racing Board, will remain a director reporting directly to O’Halloran and will work on client relationships and projects in New Zealand and around the region. 

So will it be a case of three days a week and the other two—or maybe four—days still spent working?  

“Probably,” O’Halloran says. 

He says promoting Mowday vindicates the decision to hire him in the first place and is acknowledgement of his success. 

“Justin has done a superb job for us. He’s been receiving a lot of mentoring and support. But we wouldn’t do this if we didn’t think he was more than ready for it. The thing we’re really satisfied with is that through the tough economic times we’ve continued to grow our business. There are very few agencies that have had seven years of revenue or profit growth. And Justin’s been a big part of continuing that in the three years he’s been here. He did a great job with the Westpac business and he led the charge on that. So from that point of view I’m really confident that the future of DDB is safe in his hands. That pressure for him to keep growing the business won’t stop. And he feels that. Up until now it’s been sitting on Sandy’s shoulders. There’s no hiding now. But he’s got a very senior partner in Chris to do that with him.”

Unlike Mowday’s appointment, which involved a global search, O’Halloran says Riley’s appointment evolved after discussions with him and fitted with where he wanted to take the New Zealand business—and where the Australian business is also heading. 

“It’s something he wanted to do. OMD didn’t want to lose him, of course. But it’s within Omnicom and it’s a great step for him. He may one day go back to OMD, and that would be with our blessing, but it’s a unique opportunity for him to broaden his skill base … Chris actually started at DDB [around 18 years ago]when we had media inhouse, so in some respects he’s coming back home.”

O’Halloran says the key relationship will be
Mowday and Riley and “the complementary skills they bring”. But he says it’s still really important to have senior support for executives on a growth curve, which is where he and Moore will assist.  

“If you go back in history for DDB, we’ve always had two or three executives sharing the load. And that’s been a very successful formula … They’re both very ambitious,
high-energy, very focused. And I think they’ll rub off on each other quite nicely.”

In addition to focusing on growing its shopper marketing, PR, activation and digital offerings, Riley will also be looking at acquisitions across the board. And he will also be looking after Dynamo, the recently created data-driven hub inside DDB that took the Telecom business off Starcom

“We’re keen to grow our group. So it’s about looking at where is it that we may need to acquire or even start-up new ventures. That’s one of his key tasks.”

He says he will also be trying to “align all the resources to operate more holistically”. And in the case of Dynamo, Saatchi & Saatchi is still the ad agency on the Telecom account, so O’Halloran says it’s a good example of that type of collaboration.

“My thing recently has very much been the
impact technology and data is having on our business and the evolution of our
model, so I’m trying to turbocharge that focus within the agency. The way we’re
going to connect with consumers is changing, but you need to make sure you have
the right things in place to do that. So bringing someone like Chris in with his media skills
and digital skills to complement Justin’s skills, I think I have a really
powerful team … It’s about bringing all the planning teams together and ensuring they’re much more aligned. We’ll still run them as separate
businesses, but for me it’s about how the businesses connect to give clients
an advantage and developing processes and systems that make it easier for the
agencies to work together. An important part of the process is to develop
something that allows us to collaborate with competing agencies and that’s a
big part of Chris’ role.”

So is this evidence of a shift back to a time where media and creative lived together? 

“The market is getting more complex so we
have to have people to help clients navigate a much tougher media landscape and
explore all the comms channels,” O’Halloran says. “I think media agencies will always remain
independent, but I think they’ve become too independent of creative agencies.
We’re looking at ways to facilitate that collaboration in a much smarter way.
The reality is, too often media planning and brand planning are done in
isolation and our mission is to bring that together. That’s one of the exciting
things for me having Chris, because he’s experienced it from a media point of

“We’re not at all trying to create full-service agencies, including media. The
reality is some clients don’t use media agencies we own, so it’s about finding ways to work with them. The lines are blurred between the different
agencies and that creates tension. Where do media and creative agencies start and stop? My view is rather than
talk about territories, we need to bring them together and find out ways to do the best for the client. Because clients are feeling [that tension].”

As for what Riley’s departure means for OMD, managing partner Andrew Reinholds will move into a client service-focused role and his strategic team will be supported with the addition of comms planner Rebecca Bradley, who has recently re-joined OMD. 

UPDATE: OMD’s chief executive Kath Watson admits it’s a big change, but she sees it as a positive one and she’s really pleased he’s moving within the Omnicom Group. 

“It will strengthen our relationship with DDB,” she says (its two biggest shared clients are Sky and McDonald’s).  

Riley’s departure adds to a few others, however, including social strategist Anthony Gardiner and head of digital Tara Cowan (Watson says she has handed in her notice, but doesn’t leave for a few months and she is hopeful she can be convinced to stay). Strategy director Jacquie Pierson is also in discussions with another agency, but Watson says she hasn’t resigned. 

Watson says it is taking the opportunity to restructure the business, prepare it for the future and look at what clients want, and that is set to manifest itself in the form of more integration of digital across the business, rather than operating as a separate unit. 

“It’s not a restructure to remove people, it’s a restructure so people work better together,” she says. 

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