BBDO announced today that Allen Rosenshine, Chairman of BBDO Worldwide, will retire at the end of December, ending a remarkable 44-year career that earned him a place on Advertising Age's list of the "hundred most influential people in advertising over the past century."
It was Rosenshine who spearheaded what Time magazine called advertising's "big bang" in 1986 - the creation of Omnicom which today ranks as the largest and most successful marketing communications company in the world. He also built BBDO into arguably the most creative agency network in the world. Fittingly, BBDO was named "Agency of the Year" in 2005 by every leading advertising trade publication. And just last week, BBDO finished first in The Gunn Report (which combines the winners lists from the top creative award shows around the world to determine an overall ranking) as the most awarded agency network in the world for the fourth time - twice as often as any other agency network.
"When he handed over to me as CEO in June 2004, Allen promised that he would give us two years," said Andrew Robertson, President and CEO, BBDO Worldwide. "Typically for Allen, he has given more. He built a network of extraordinary talent that does extraordinary work. He believed that you could be good and big, creative and global. And he proved to the world he was right."
Rosenshine will become Chairman Emeritus of BBDO, which Robertson said in an internal note "is Latin for 'did so much for BBDO, we can't imagine him not being connected to the company.'"
"I'm very happy that my last, and in many ways, most important decision as CEO - choosing Andrew Robertson to lead BBDO in the new century - has obviously turned out extremely well," Rosenshine said. "BBDO continues to grow, its creative heritage is flourishing in both traditional and new media, and there is little left that I can contribute, all of which is exactly as it should be. I'm delighted to have worked my way out quietly."
John Wren, President and CEO of Omnicom, commented, "The success of BBDO under Allen's leadership speaks for itself. He's been the heart and soul of the agency. It's BBDO blood that runs through his veins. So Andrew and I are very glad that, even in retirement, he will still stay in contact with the network and be available whenever he might be needed."
A brilliant copywriter, Rosenshine joined BBDO in 1965 after three years at a small business-to-business agency and came up through the ranks to become creative director of BBDO New York in 1975. His early award-winning creations included campaigns for Pepsi and Gillette, clients with whom he has worked for almost four decades. In 1980, Rosenshine was named President of the New York agency. He became Chief Executive Officer of BBDO Worldwide in 1985. It was one year later that Rosenshine helped orchestrate the merger of BBDO Worldwide, Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham Harper to create the Omnicom Group.
Rosenshine served as the first Chief Executive Officer of Omnicom before surprising the industry by "firing himself" and returning to BBDO to oversee the agency's business as Chairman and CEO. As he said at the time, "Having me running a public, finance-oriented holding company is not the best choice for me or the company."
Bruce Crawford, who succeeded Rosenshine at Omnicom after having been his predecessor at BBDO, said, "Of all the people I've worked with over the years, Allen is one of the few I've been close to as a friend. His intelligence, integrity, and talent made practically everything we worked on together more interesting, more challenging and more productive."
Since he rejoined the agency in 1989, BBDO Worldwide has increased in size from billings of about $3 billion to more than $24 billion in 2005, becoming a truly global agency for many of the world's most prominent multinational brands, while continuing to serve local country clients who remain a core strength of the company.
Throughout his career, Rosenshine has been widely recognized as an advocate for advertising agencies and their unique ability to build enduring brands for clients. In 1991, he served as President of the Jury at the prestigious International Advertising Festival in Cannes. He also served on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the International Advertising Association and The Advertising Council. He is a founding member of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) and currently serves as its Vice Chairman and Executive Creative Director. He plans to go on working with PDFA after his retirement from BBDO.
Rosenshine recently published his first book, Funny Business: Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars, and the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game. The book is a collection of stories gleaned from his more than four decades in the business. It's not a "how to" book and therein lies perhaps one of Rosenshine's best-known personal characteristics - an ability to step back and laugh at himself and to see the business for what it is: a madcap world where it is never business as usual.
When asked what piece of advice he plans to pass along to those in advertising or contemplating the business, Rosenshine quoted the last line of his book, "Don't lose your sense of humor. You'll need it."