BBH plucks Clemenger BBDO's Stephen de Wolf for top creative job

He replaces Ian Heartfield.

De Wolf: first time BBH has hired outside for top creative role
De Wolf: first time BBH has hired outside for top creative role

Bartle Bogle Hegarty London has appointed Stephen de Wolf as chief creative officer. 

Starting in May, de Wolf replaces Ian Heartfield, who left at the start of the year to be creative partner at James Murphy and David Golding’s post-Adam & Eve/DDB venture. This is the first time in BBH’s 38-year history that it has hired outside for the top creative role. 

De Wolf joins from Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne, where he holds the same role. Since joining the shop six years ago, he has helped it earn the titles of D&AD Agency of the Year and Cannes Lions Agency of the Year in 2017 – the first time that an Australian shop has received that accolade. 

That year, de Wolf’s team took home 56 Cannes Lions for work on brands including Mars, Airbnb and the Transport Accident Commission. The latter’s road-safety campaign, "Meet Graham", was the most awarded creative campaign in the world, garnering two Cannes Grands Prix and a D&AD black Pencil.

The Cannes Lions Global Creative Index ranked de Wolf the number one creative director in the world two years ago. 

Other notable work includes Snickers "Hungerithm", which gauged the nation’s mood in real time to adjust the chocolate bar’s price in 7-Eleven stores; Airbnb "Until we all belong" for equal marriage rights; and Myer "Naughty or nice bauble", in which Australia’s largest department store sold Christmas decorations that changed from green to red to indicate how naughty or nice people had been.

Before Clemenger BBDO, de Wolf spent three years as creative director at 18 Feet & Rising (now And Rising) in London, where he worked on brands including Nationwide, Virgin Media and AkzoNobel. He also held roles at J Walter Thompson Sydney and Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand. 

Neil Munn, group chief executive of BBH, said: "We searched far and wide for a leader with impeccable creative standards, who can also evolve our business. We have found the right person. Stephen brings pedigree, talent and an infectious energy to succeed."

De Wolf added: "BBH London is a beacon of creativity. I’m excited to be joining the brilliantly inspiring Jab [Joakim Borgström, worldwide chief creative officer] and the most creatively charged and passionate leadership team. I know we have what we need to make some of the best work of our lives."