Sarah Douglas steps down as CEO of AMV BBDO

Chief executive has resigned after 20 years at Omnicom agency.

Sarah Douglas: has resigned from AMV BBDO
Sarah Douglas: has resigned from AMV BBDO

Sarah Douglas has resigned from her role as chief executive of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO after two-and-a-half years.

Douglas, who has been with AMV BBDO for 21 years, has steered it through a challenging period marked by the pandemic.

She led the Essity account, which produced acclaimed work such as the Bodyform/Libresse ads "Blood normal", "Viva la vulva" and "#Wombstories".

Under her leadership AMV BBDO also won Agency of the Year at the 2019 Campaign Big Awards.

However, the Omnicom agency has lost key clients such as BT and Walkers over the past 12 months.

Douglas was promoted to chief executive in November 2018, ahead of the retirement of group chief executive Dame Cilla Snowball after 28 years at AMV. Snowball had taken back over the day-to-day running of the shop after the 2017 exit of Ian Pearman.

The agency has identified a replacement for Douglas and is hoping to announce an appointment in the coming weeks. She will stay on for a period to enable a smooth transition.

Andrew Robertson, global chief executive of BBDO Worldwide, said: “I interviewed Sarah when she was joining the agency 20 years ago. I have enormous respect for her intellect, her integrity, and her commitment to breakthrough creative excellence. I would like to thank her for everything she did at AMV BBDO and wish her nothing but the best in whatever she does next.”

Douglas said: “Having led AMV BBDO to two outstanding years creatively, I have decided after 20 years it is time for me to step down.

“I want to thank my clients for their partnership, trust and belief in the power of creativity and I want to thank everyone in the agency for all their love and support through the pandemic and for keeping on keeping on every day even in the most challenging of times.

“Together we have taken important steps towards driving greater diversity, equality and inclusion in everything we do and I know none of us will rest until it's done.”

Before becoming CEO Douglas was the agency's chief client officer. She was promoted to that role from joint managing partner in 2012, as part of a rejig prompted by the departure of former executive chairman Farah Ramzan Golant.

As CEO she reported to Jim Moser, the chairman of BBDO Europe since November 2018. Moser has been with BBDO since 1994 and  was chairman of Clemenger BBDO Melbourne and Clemenger Group New Zealand before returning to Europe. He previously ran the network’s shops in Poland and Italy.

Alex Grieve continues as AMV BBDO's chief creative officer, a role he took on after the departure of veteran creative boss Paul Brazier after 27 years.

In January long-serving joint chief strategy officers, Craig Mawdsley and Bridget Angear, left AMV BBDO and set up an independent strategy studio, though they continue to work on a number of projects for the agency and its client.

AMV was for decades the biggest ad shop in the UK by billings, but dropped to second place in 2019, behind stablemate Adam & Eve/DDB. It slipped to fifth in 2020, according to Nielsen data exclusively supplied to Campaign for the School Reports.

Long-time clients to have moved their business out of AMV BBDO in recent years include Sainsbury’s (2016), Camelot (2018), BT (2019 and 2020) and Walkers (2020). Most recently, the agency was knocked out of the pitch for Asda, a client since 2018.

The agency has also had new business successes, winning the Johnson & Johnson brands Calpol, Benylin and Listerine, Essity kitchen towel brand Plenty and Macmillan Cancer Support – for which it created a moving ad in January 2021.