Frank Palmer returns to DDB as Brent Choi resigns

Frank Palmer has returned to DDB, taking over the Vancouver office amidst a larger DDB Canada executive shuffle that includes the resignation of CEO/CCO Brent Choi.

Kevin Brady, who was CEO of Anderson DDB, becomes president and CEO of DDB Canada which will now include the Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton offices. Agency staff, which number about 200, were notified of the changes earlier Tuesday.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity DDB gave me,” said Choi. “It challenged me. I learned a ton and met some great people. I wish DDB the very best. Personally, I’m looking forward to my career taking an exciting new direction.”

Choi joined DDB only last February as the agency’s first CEO/CCO, overseeing creative, strategy and new business. He originally reported to Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB Worldwide, but she left earlier this year to become the global CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network. DDB Worldwide chair Chuck Brymer took on the CEO responsibilities. Brymer was previously CEO for 12 years.

“Kevin is an exceptional leader; he has produced steadfast growth even in the most precarious economic times and I know that under his leadership, DDB Canada is poised for exciting times ahead,” said Brymer in a release.

Megan Hardisty, who was senior vice-president and general manager of Red Magnet (which just lost the Rogers account) has been named managing director of DDB Toronto. Long-time Anderson DDB creative director Tony Miller will also take on a wider creative role for DDB Canada, alongside Erin Kawalecki, ECD of DDB Canada Toronto.

The changes came about as the result of a larger conversation about how DDB Canada could be more efficient, especially as COVID took hold and raised other questions about client spend and longer-term implications for workspace, said Brady.

“I think it all came together to address where we are and where do we want to go,” he said. “It’s looking at all efficiencies. Looking at the real revenue between now and the end of the year, making sure that we have the right resources, maybe hire if we have to.”

The other big change comes in Vancouver, with Frank Palmer returning to the agency world after stepping away at the end of 2018. Palmer and business partner Bob Stamnes will take over DDB’s Vancouver operations, renaming it Palmer Stamnes DDB.

Palmer, one the most famous names in Canadian advertising history, spent 50 years in the business before retiring from DDB at the end of 2018.

“After a period of time, I guess it was about a year-and-a-half or so, I started missing the family,” said Palmer, referring to his relationships with DDB executives including Brymer. “I missed them but I never stopped talking to them I was always in contact with them.”

Palmer said that Brymer reached out to him about six weeks ago to see if he’d be willing to come back.

“I said yeah, if it was right and under the right structure, and we were able to make a deal where I came back in as the chairman and Bob, my partner in Elevator Strategy, came with me,” said Palmer.

While remaining part of the DDB network and working closely with DDB Canada, Palmer Stamnes DDB will be majority owned by Palmer and Stamnes. “A big majority,” said Palmer when asked about ownership structure.

“I still have all of the passion and love and all that stuff, and still want to work in something I’ve enjoyed all my life. It’s really almost like a hobby with me, I really enjoy it,” he added.

The new Vancouver version of DDB will have about 20 people, with Patty Jones, who had been president of DDB Vancouver, remaining as president of Palmer Stamnes DDB. Dean Lee has left DDB and the agency is looking for a new creative director, said Palmer.

“We’re going to be a very independent running agency in Vancouver using the DDB name, which allows us to do what we want to do with no restrictions. But when we need it, we’ve got that firepower that DDB has,” he said. “I’m able to plug in when I want it, and they can plug into me when they want to pitch new business in the marketplace, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

David Brown