Cowdell Exits GroupM, Heads West To R2C

Phil-Cowdell

Phil Cowdell, North American Chairman at GroupM’s Mindshare, is leaving the company in March to become president of R2C Group, an independent direct-response agency based in Portland, Ore.

Cowdell moved to the post of chairman at Mindshare after serving as North American CEO of the agency for two-plus years until last summer, when the shop brought Antony Young, former CEO at Optimedia, in to succeed him.

In his latest role at the agency, Cowdell was charged with expanding Mindshare's North American business with multinational clients such as Ford, Unilever and Pepsi. Cowdell, a 10-year Mindshare veteran, was named Mindshare’s North American CEO in May of 2009.

During Cowdell’s term as CEO, Mindshare made a comeback on the client development front, winning more than $2 billion in new accounts, including U.S. assignments from Boehringer ($250 million) and RadioShack ($140 million), as well as Unilever's Canadian account ($200 million).

In a memo to staffers on Tuesday, Young stated: “I've got very mixed emotions with this news as [Cowdell] is a close friend, has been a key factor in this agency’s success, and frankly, was an important reason in my coming to the agency.”

Sources indicated that Cowdell’s move is at least partly attributable to his wanting a different lifestyle, which Young alluded to in his memo: “I know that the opportunity to make a major lifestyle and career shift that would give him much more needed time with his family is something he owes himself and [his wife] Cheryl.”

Cowdell will officially leave the shop in three weeks, per the memo. 

GroupM declined to comment, referring calls to R2C. An R2C Group rep did not respond by press time to an email query seeking comment about Cowdell.

The DR group was founded in 1998 by the husband-and-wife business team of Michelle Cardinal and Tim O’Leary.  Since then, the group has added a handful of subsidiaries, including a production company, a multimedia lead-generation unit, a media planning and buying operation and an interactive shop. O’Leary is CEO of the flagship advertising agency Respond2, and Cardinal is CEO of the group’s media planning and buying agency, Cmedia.

In addition to its Portland headquarters, the company has offices in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Billings, Montana.

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