BBDO San Francisco hires Kelly Johnson as CEO & Thiago Cruz as CCO

New Hire

Kelly Johnson and Thiago Cruz will work on BBDO San Francisco’s top clients including WhatsApp, MegaMex Food, ServiceNow and Wells Fargo.

BBDO San Francisco has announced a new leadership team today in Kelly Johnson as Chief Executive Officer and Thiago Cruz as Chief Creative Officer.

Johnson joins from her most recent post as President of 215 McCann, where she has spent the past eight years leading brands such as LinkedIn, Workday, Xbox, Minecraft, Hulu, Pandora and the SF Giants. Her experience also includes stints at agencies like Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Cruz, originally from Brazil, joins BBDO San Francisco after over 15 years working for top creative agencies in five different cities, in four different countries, on three different continents. He most recently served as Creative Director for Pereira O’Dell. Throughout his career, he has created high profile campaigns for clients such as Diesel, AB InBev, Heineken, Motorola, Coca-Cola, American Express, and KFC.

“We’re delighted to have Kelly and Thiago join us. We took our time to get this right and they are both good people, with great pedigrees,” said St. John Walshe, CEO of the Americas for BBDO.

The duo will partner closely with an existing cross-functional team, working across BBDO San Francisco’s top clients including Facebook’s WhatsApp, MegaMex Food, ServiceNow, and Wells Fargo, while also collaborating to win new business opportunities.

Also Read: Havas New York strengthens senior leadership with three new hires

“I am thrilled to be joining BBDO SF as CEO. I share the agency’s singular focus on ‘The Work. The Work. The Work.’ and admire the Network’s longstanding creative reputation. I could not be more excited to build the next chapter in San Francisco alongside Thiago and the rest of the talented team,” said Johnson.

Cruz adds, “I’m excited to partner with Kelly and the team to bring some of the most cutting-edge brands to life in ways that are relevant, innovative and fulfill a meaningful role within culture. It’s what I love to do, and I can’t wait to bring my passion to the iconic BBDO Network.”

Johnson replaces longtime BBDO San Francisco CEO, Jim Lesser, who left the position at the end of last year to become a client of the agency, as SVP, Brand Marketing at enterprise software company, ServiceNow.

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Jim as a friend and colleague for over 15 years. When he told me about the opportunity at ServiceNow, all I could do was wish him well. He has led BBDO San Francisco brilliantly and leaves a great legacy. While we’ll miss him, he’s not going too far away, and he couldn’t have done more to leave the office in great shape for his successor,” said St. John Walshe.

Thiago takes over creative reins from Matt Miller, who is being promoted to the role of Chief Creative Officer on AT&T, overseeing the client across Omnicom, leading teams in LA, Dallas and NY. “Matt is a star and we’ve been preparing for some time for his next move,” said Walshe. “He’s working closely with Thiago to ensure a seamless hand-off.”

Both leaders are in the process of transitioning over from their previous roles.


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