Long-time Omnicom executive Sharon Callahan has stepped in to lead healthcare agency CDM as part of a managerial overhaul involving multiple senior-level staff, the firm is expected to announce today.
She’s the agency’s second CEO in as many years, having succeeded Chris Palmer, a 19-year CDM veteran who rose to the top post last year, and reportedly the first non-CDM’er to lead the firm.
Across the CDM network, revenue fell by 10% from its $137.5 million total in 2018, to an MM&M-estimated $123.75 in 2019 (after having grown by 11% in 2018), prompting the change.
For Callahan, who’s become a familiar face among the Omnicom executive hierarchy, most recently as CEO of sister agency TBWA\WorldHealth, the position offers a chance to bring a fresh perspective to the storied shop.
“I’m the first person to never work at CDM before to be leading the company,” she told MM&M. “It’s been a real meritocracy, and sometimes companies need something different and a new point of view. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Palmer assumed the role of chief creative officer, replacing Deborah Polkes, who was promoted to ECD across the Omnicom Health Group. The rest of the CDM leadership structure was reconstituted through a mix of new joinings and inside moves.
Deepa Patel joined from New York consumer shop TBWA\Chiat\Day, where she headed up the agency’s Disruption Labs, to become CDM’s new chief strategy officer. Patel replaced former CSO Denise Henry, who departed this month to become group president at Havas Health & You. Lila Shah-Wright, formerly CDM’s chief operating officer, took a leadership role at Wild Type, a TBWA\WorldHealth company. (CDM has yet to name a new COO.)
Callahan’s CDM appointment also set in motion managerial shifts at TBWA\WorldHeath. The agency’s long-time global president, Robin Shapiro, ascended to CEO, the role formerly held by Callahan, who moved to chairman of the agency. Callahan retains a third title, chief client officer of Omnicom Health Group.
Another ex-TBWA\WorldHealth exec, Kristen Gengaro, formerly managing partner overseeing its US business, advanced to become president of CDM’s flagship New York office. Gregg Geider, who was elevated to CDM New York president last year when Palmer took the CEO post, has left the agency.
“It’s about taking CDM into the future,” Callahan said of her new role. “I’m leading the global organization but really focused on the crown jewel – the NY office – right now. And for me, it’s a big honor, because like so many people in our industry, I’ve always been envious of CDM’s strong culture, values and incredible talent.”