Dentsumcgarrybowen hires Higgs and Cohen to make agency ‘famous for creativity’

Duo represents the first hire by recently appointed UK creative chief Simon Lloyd.

Cohen [left] worked at A&E/DDB with Lloyd, while Higgs was at Grey London
Cohen [left] worked at A&E/DDB with Lloyd, while Higgs was at Grey London

Dentsumcgarrybowen UK has appointed Grey London’s Sue Higgs and Adam & Eve/DDB’s Paul Cohen as joint executive creative directors.

Higgs and Cohen will be based in London and are the first hires of UK chief creative officer Simon Lloyd, who joined the agency in October from A&E/DDB. 

The pair will be responsible for DentsuMB’s creative output, developing its culture and attracting new talent. Higgs will also lead the global account for insurance brand Generali, which DentsuMB won last year, while Cohen will take the reins on American Express.

With the appointments of Higgs and Cohen, the agency plans to further expand its creative department and aims to boost its creative reputation in the UK and abroad. 

Lloyd told Campaign: “If anyone knows Denstu [outside of Japan], they’ll know them as a media network. But Wendy [Clark, chief executive of Dentsu International] and I have an ambition to make Dentsu London famous for creativity. One of my biggest priorities is making the craft of work better and making London one of three creative centres for Dentsu outside of Shanghai and New York, but I needed to find the creative firepower to help lead. 

“In previous years the vision of the agency has been unclear and I’m trying to make it really clear. I want people to know that there’s something going on at Dentsu and feel a ripple of excitement in the people we’re hiring, the business we’re pitching for and ultimately in the work we produce.”

Until 2020 Higgs had been group creative director at Grey London for four years, working on brands such as Birds Eye, Nokia and Marks & Spencer. Her 30-year career also spans agencies including Publicis, Ogilvy & Mather and M&C Saatchi.

Last year Higgs came into the spotlight for a Campaign article in which she spoke out against workplace bullying in the ad industry. She is also a mentor for SheSays, part of the Uninvisibility Project and a board director of the Circle Collective, a social enterprise that helps young people get into work.

She said: “The horrible behaviours that have crept into the industry won’t be here [at DentsuMB]. All advertising is, is a whole bunch of people pulling together to try and do something meaningful. If one of us shines, we all shine, so it’s got to be an inclusive place where everybody feels empowered and enabled to bring a point of view to the table.”

Cohen had been global ECD at A&E/DDB for the past seven years, overseeing the Esso business. He started his career at Mother and also spent four years at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, creating work for the likes of The Economist and the RSPCA. 

He said: “I’m aiming to build a department that is confident in coming up with creative ideas and how to execute them, and empowering them to do that. There is a big distance between the thought and the expression and that’s something we can help teams get to grips with as a group.”

Lloyd said he was drawn to Cohen for his talent in “design craft”, adding: “It’s important to me to build the art direction and design offering within Dentsu.”

He said he liked Higgs’ “strong opinions, passion, great sense of humour, experience, credibility, craft, you name it”.

Lloyd added: “The creative department will move across disciplines and put creativity into all of these different touchpoints, so when brands come to us they won’t just come to us as an ad agency but as a collection of minds and disciplines that can solve their business problems. That to me is the future.”

Clark has laid out a four-year growth plan to generate half of Dentsu International’s revenues from customer experience and to “transform” its creative offer while “evolving” its media capabilities.

“Creative will be the place that undergoes the most change” by 2024, she told Campaign in February, giving her first interview since starting as global chief executive in September after being recruited from Omnicom’s DDB.

“We’re not set up for where we need to be,” Clark said of Dentsu’s creative capabilities, but she promised changes: “It has a lot of my focus.