DDB/Chicago president and CEO Rick Carpenter is gone. Carpenter's departure comes just days after Mark O'Brien was tapped to replace Dick Rogers as head of DDB's North American operations. O'Brien will now run DDB's Chicago office on an interim basis until a new CEO is found.
As we said just days ago, Rogers should have vacated his job overseeing DDB's North American operations years ago. Likewise Carpenter's exit should have happened long ago -- when it became apparent he was incapable of leading DDB/Chicago out of the dark hole it fell into after the suicide of DDB creative leader Paul Tilley in early 2008.
Now, with the agency looking as if it could be in a possibly irreversible free fall, O'Brien and DDB/Chicago chief creative officer Ewan Paterson, who has been in his post for less than six month, are left to try and right so much that has gone wrong at DDB's flagship North American shop over the past several years.
Within minutes of the announcement of Carpenter's departure to pursue other opportunities, some sources were wondering why DDB didn't have someone ready to step in to Carpenter's job right away. It took DDB more than two years to name Paterson to replace the late Paul Tilley.
And during those two years with only Carpenter at the helm, DDB/Chicago drifted further into disarray. Now there are concerns the agency could sink into even worse shape unless a new leader -- the right leader -- is quickly found to work alongside Paterson. If that new leader turns out to be someone outside of DDB, then what will that say about all the staff now sitting at DDB/Chicago. Do none of them have the right stuff to lead the shop?
Certainly, the series of bad management personnel choices that have seriously wounded DDB are a sign of a larger problem that extends well beyond a single agency. As we've said often, leaders with true leadership ability and vision are in dangerously short supply in the advertising industry today. DDB is certainly the most painful example of what this crisis is causing to happen to agencies that were once shining beacons of creative greatness -- beacons that made the entire industry an exciting and fascinating business to watch and write about.
Our lasting image of Carpenter will be of his posing for a photo to run with a profile we wrote of him shortly after he arrived at DDB/Chicago in the fall of 2007. We will never forget how he didn't just stand and let the Sun-Times photographer shoot him. But rather he changed his pose almost as quickly as each of many shots was snapped -- something professional models learn how to do very quickly. At the time, we couldn't help but wonder whether he might have fallen into the wrong line of work. We're still wondering.