Martin Agency’s Cavallo appointed to global leadership role, will remain CEO of Martin

Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo has been appointed to lead agency IPG MullenLowe Group as global CEO. (Photo courtesy of IPG)

After considering leaving the advertising industry, Kristen Cavallo is working hard.

The leader of The Martin Agency for the past five years has accepted a promotion as global CEO of MullenLowe Group, the international agency where she previously worked and which is also under the umbrella of marketing conglomerate Interpublic Group.

While the promotion puts her in charge of the London-headquartered agency, Cavallo retains her role as CEO at Martin in Richmond, where she worked for 13 years prior to her current tenure.

Cavallo said the script is the result of the time she invested in the two agencies, which she bounced between for most of her career. She said it also comes from the fact that her children have left home, which frees her up to do more things.

“I became an empty nester and my schedule was much more flexible,” Cavallo said on a call to a conference she was attending last week at the United Nations building in New York.

“When the opportunity presented itself to lead MullenLowe globally, I was extremely excited, as I had wanted to do the global play for quite a long time and I have a lot of heart for this agency. But I didn’t want to give up on Martin,” she said.

“I struggled with the choice, then I decided: what if I asked for both, which I know is rare and perhaps unorthodox. But I felt like no one else wouldn’t care about those two agencies or invest in those two agencies as much as I did, and they said yes.

The opportunity may never have happened, as Cavallo said she did some soul-searching in anticipation of her empty nest. She said it was the first time in 25 years that she could seriously consider doing anything else, without having to consider her family at home.

Cavallo said she was considering philanthropy, moving into client-side marketing, politics, startups, consulting and journalism, and reached out to people on LinkedIn who had made career changes that intrigued her to share. their ideas. Through this process, she said, she determined that her next move would not be far from publicity, but deeper.

“I finally found out that advertising is actually where I should be,” she said. “There are many reasons for this: I like the threat of working on 20 different clients; I like to look for synergies; I like to think about culturally relevant things; I like working with interesting and curious people.

“I like to solve problems creatively. And I feel like I have the freedom to use my voice in this industry, in ways that I might not feel like I have the freedom to do from another company or industry.

At MullenLowe, Cavallo replaces Alex Leikikh, who remains president of the agency and becomes executive vice president of IPG. Cavallo will continue to report to Leikikh, as she has since being named Martin’s first female CEO in 2017, when the agency was in the midst of the #MeToo scandal.

Martin’s Shockoe Slip headquarters. (BizSense File Photo)

Since then, Cavallo has led Martin to further growth and back-to-back recognitions, in 2020 and 21, as Adweek’s agency of the year. Before that, she was nominated by Ad Age as her 2019 Executive of the Year.

In last week’s announcement, Leikikh said Cavallo’s success at Martin and connections at MullenLowe gave meaning to his dual-role storyline when they discussed it with IPG CEO Philippe Krakowsky.

“When Philippe, Kristen and I started talking about the next steps for Kristen and I at IPG, it was such a logical evolution of our partnership,” Leikikh said.

“Kristen is the perfect person to build on what our teams have achieved at MullenLowe,” added Krakowsky. “She is a leader people want to follow and she has proven she can attract and develop the best talent in the industry. Having known Kristen for many years, I am convinced that the larger the stage we offer her, the greater her positive impact can be.

While her new duties will have her traveling the world and spending less time at Martin’s, Cavallo said she will still maintain an active presence, via Zoom calls and other technology. She also pointed out that Martin’s management team allowed her to take on the dual role.

“I have great faith in this management team,” she said. “We have also been preparing for two years a group of general managers who will take on increased responsibilities. They have been in training for two years, meet the executive committee, learn everything about how the company works. So we developed a deep bench.

“Because of that, and because one of the silver linings of COVID is that we’ve learned to work differently as an entire business and economy, I can find ways to be there without physically being there for whoever. whatever,” she said.

When asked if the storyline sets the stage for her to eventually pass the torch to Martin, Cavallo said she sees it as a possibility but not currently in the cards.

“I don’t plan to make a change. Certainly, over the years, even though I was not in this position, I always seek to uplift people and give them opportunities. So, I don’t object to the idea of ​​me moving on at some point. But that’s not in the plans,” she said.

While now global CEO, Cavallo said she would always call Richmond home – between flights to London, Mumbai and the other 18 offices that make up MullenLowe’s network in 13 countries.

“I will fly everywhere. I probably go Airbnb to a lot of different places, but my home and my family are in Richmond,” she said.

Laughing, Cavallo added: “I’m sure I’m going to be overwhelmed. I think the overtaking will come, and I will be fortunately overtaken. I waited a long time for this.

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