Sarah Spence named CEO as Bensimon Byrne shifts management model

Jack Bensimon’s name is still on the door, but Sarah Spence is now in charge at Bensimon Byrne and its sister agencies OneMethod and Narrative.

Spence is the new CEO of Tadiem Inc., the 175-person strong parent company comprised of the three agencies, taking over day-to-day operations, supported by an executive leadership team consisting of five managing directors (below left to right): Lisa Good, executive vice-president for Bensimon Byrne; Max Sawka, executive vice-president for OneMethod; Meredith Klapowich, executive creative director for Narrative; Cathy Mitchell, executive vice-president for Narrative; and Erin O’Connor, who takes over a Tadiem-wide role as managing director of strategy and client experience and executive vice-president.

Spence had been managing director of Narrative since 2016, joining the agency after 10 years at High Road. She spent much of her early career working client side in technology and telecommunications.

Bensimon Byrne (and later Narrative and OneMethod) has been run on an owner-operator model since launching 28 years ago. The appointments represent a shift to an executive managed model, with all five owner-partners remaining actively involved and forming a board of directors, but stepping away from the day-to-day responsibilities workload of running the agency.

The new titles for the five are: Jack Bensimon, board chair and head of business development for Tadiem; Colleen Peddie, chief financial officer for Tadiem; David Rosenberg, chief creative officer for Bensimon Byrne and head of corporate culture for Tadiem; Amin Todai, chief creative officer for OneMethod and head of design for Tadiem; and Joseph Bonnici, chief creative officer for Tadiem.

Practically speaking, the changes are intended to make the agency more agile and responsive to client needs in an ever-changing market, said Spence. The senior level managers below the five partners always had autonomy, but ultimately most big decisions had to be approved by ownership consensus. That tended to take more time than was ideal.

“The whole world is speeding up, and I do think this allows us to speed up decision-making,” said Spence. “What they’re doing is saying now the decision making sits with one individual, myself, and that naturally speeds up the process.

“When it comes to all the nuts and bolts that is running an agency, all the people decisions you make every day, all the calls you make on clients, how you staff teams, all of that now sits with me and with the executive leadership team. That means we can be so much more responsive to clients.”

While executive handovers like this are often a precursor to owners stepping away entirely, Spence said that is unequivocally not the case here. “Jack has talked about it as being part of the growth strategy,” she said. Bensimon will play an essential role in the agency, especially when it comes to new business, she said. “It’s his name on the door, and he is a big part of who we are. That is not going to change.”

Similarly, the move frees up Todai, Bonnici and Rosenberg to focus entirely on client work, rather than the long list of responsibilities that comes with running a creative department.

While likely unfamiliar to most, the name Tadiem—an acronym for “talent and decency in equal measure”—could also be used more to remind the market of the integrated offering and the breadth of expertise within the brand.

“Bensimon Byrne, OneMethod and Narrative are how we’re known and those three distinct brands are going to stay out there,” she said. “But I think there’s value in people knowing our value… I think there will be a place for [Tadiem] now. Our three great brands will continue to lead, that’s how people know us so nothing will change with that. But I think there’s an opportunity for people to have exposure to Tadiem.”

So could Tadiem pitch a big piece of business? “I don’t know yet. It’s going to be an evolution,” said Spence. “Let’s talk again in a year.”

David Brown