McCann global CSO Suzanne Powers promoted to global president

Powers will remain in her role as global chief strategy officer while taking on the expanded president title.

By Alison Weissbrot

More changes are afoot at McCann Worldgroup.

The agency said Tuesday that global chief strategy officer Suzanne Powers will expand her role to lead the group as global president and CSO.

The news comes just two months after McCann Worldgroup CEO Harris Diamond announced his retirement and replacement by former global chief operating officer Bill Kolb.

Powers will report into Kolb and work alongside Chris Macdonald, global president of advertising and allied agencies, Nanette LaFond-Dufour, president of global clients and business leadership and Rob Reilly, global creative chairman.

Powers has been with McCann as global CSO since 2013. Expanding her role as global president will be a “natural extension” of the work she’s done over the past seven years to create both internal and client-facing go-to-market strategies for the group, she told Campaign US.

That strategy revolves around having best-in-class expertise within each agency while delivering on integrated solutions for clients, with creativity at the core. McCann’s agencies span disciplines including advertising at McCann Erickson, customer relationship marketing at MRM, healthcare at McCann Health, PR at Weber Shandwick and more.

“It’s a ‘yes-and’ approach,” Powers explained. “We’re not going to mash it all together like some of our competitors, nor are we going to be separate.” It’s a tougher strategy to pull off, but “it comes off of 20 years of operating in an integrated way,” she said.

While each agency masters its domain, McCann Worldgroup connects disciplines through shared communities, tools and strategies. Communities aggregate people with similar skill sets across agencies, whether that’s strategy, digital or business leadership.

Each agency uses the same briefing and discovery process to develop ideas, and taps into the same set of insights through Truth Central, McCann Worldgroup’s research process that uncovers macro-level trends and shifts in consumer behaviour.

“When anyone starts a project for a client, the first stop is Truth Central,” Powers said.

In her new role, Powers will expand the use of these tools while turning them inward to help the agency reposition itself for a post-Covid world. Earlier this year, McCann Worldgroup used Truth Central to run a global proprietary study about creating a more diverse and inclusive culture around the world.

“We used the same tools we would with clients on our own company culture, behaviours and ways of working,” Powers said.

Top of mind for Powers will be developing a strategy for how McCann’s employees will return to the office. The group is already revamping its offices to create more shared spaces, but Powers does not foresee a future where everyone is back in the office all of the time.

“The whole thing will be a hybrid,” she said. “There are moments when it is better to be together, and then there’s time when our specialists need to do what they need to do, whether that’s writing, [developing] a dashboard or mapping an ecosystem.”

As McCann strategizes for this new way of working, it’s building automation into its plans. While certain types of work, such as creative and strategy, need to be done by humans, AI can play a huge role in making tedious tasks, such as reporting or scaling knowledge globally, more efficient.

“You need the humans to take creative leaps, and automation will help us liberate more of that,” Powers said. 

In addition to strategy, Powers will focus on driving growth at McCann, both with new business and organically through existing clients. The agency is leaning into more project work as a way for clients to test out the group before diving into longer-term contracts.

“We’ve seen so much more project work,” Powers said. “That type of engagement does let both sides feel it out.”