McCann CEO Ben Lilley exits

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 2 February 2018

McCann Worldwide CEO and chairman Ben Lilley is exiting the agency group after 18 years.

Lilley is moving overseas with his family to enjoy a “career break” in France and says he is looking forward to "a proper break".

The agency group has been searching for a replacement for several months and expects to name the new exec shortly.

Lilley, who was also McCann Worldgroup’s APAC creative leadership chair, joined the McCann family when his agency Smart was acquired by the group in a reverse leadership takeover in 2012. He has led the McCann group ever since.

The senior team of Smart, which included Lilley and John Mescall, now global executive creative director and global creative council president at McCann based in the US, took over the running of McCann and turned the agency around.

They led the agency to be the most awarded Australian agency at Cannes in 2013 with the Dumb Ways to Die work for Metro Trains. The same year the agency was named the world's most awarded agency in the Gunn Report, Won Report and AdAgeAwards Report.

Last year the agency network was the second most awarded Australian agency at Cannes, behind Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.

Under his watch the McCann network has developed an integrated offering, bringing media services in-house and growing its creative, strategy and digital offering.

Clients on its books include L’Oreal, AGL, Tigerair, Microsoft, Bakers Delight, Worksafe and the University of Melbourne.

Lilley’s departure follows four months after the exit of McCann’ Melbourne’s leadership team last year. Former CEO Adrian Mills, ECD Matt Lawson and head of strategy and media David Phillips, left to join Deloitte.

Harris Diamond, Global chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, says: “From our first entry into Australia six decades ago, this country has been, and will continue as, one of the cornerstones of our global network. Since becoming part of McCann, Ben and his team have helped raise our Australian creative and integrated marketing offering to world-class recognition.  As he moves into the next phase in his life, we thank him for his contributions and wish him great personal success.”

Charles Cadell, President, McCann Worldgroup APAC, adds: “Ben has led one of McCann’s most successful offerings for years, responsible for delivering outstanding work and building a truly dynamic and exciting business. In his capacity as our APAC CLC Chair, he effected remarkable results, with 2017 being the best ever year for our regional award wins – both on the creative and the effectiveness front. One of those rare hybrid leaders – a true mix of creative and CEO – he’ll be very much missed by the network and we wish him all the best.”

Ben added: “Having run SMART for 12 years and now McCann for 6 years, I’m ready for a proper break. I’m grateful to the many awesome people I’ve worked with in this time who’ve made our businesses such great successes. I’m also grateful for the many equally awesome opportunities I’ve been able to enjoy with McCann, especially in my APAC creative role. I’m pleased to be able to hand over to our incoming CEO an agency that’s in such great shape, with a talented management team across our four Australian offices. McCann’s momentum here and across the globe is clear to see and I know our business will continue to go from strength to strength. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”


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