Top execs Justin Mowday, Damon Stapleton to leave DDB

Two of the biggest names in New Zealand advertising are set to leave their agency.

Chief executive Justin Mowday and chief creative officer Damon Stapleton are understood to have resigned from advertising agency DDB Aotearoa.

An announcement is understood to have been made internally within the agency on Thursday afternoon.

Under the leadership of Mowday and Stapleton, the agency has grown into the largest creative shop in the country, employing more than 250 staff.

It currently works with a number of New Zealand’s biggest companies, including Westpac, Vodafone, Sky, Lotto NZ, Lion, New World and The Warehouse.

DDB is yet to release an official statement, but sources have suggested that Mowday and Stapleton could be looking to move to another agency or launch something from the ground up.

Neither Mowday nor Stapleton would comment further on their plans today.

They simply said more would be revealed in due course.

Mowday has been with DDB for 11 years, while Stapleton joined from Australia seven years ago.

Mowday started his career as an account manager at Saatchi & Saatchi in the early 1990s, working his up the ranks across a number of major agencies and establishing a reputation as an effective suit. He would go on to hold senior roles at TBWA and FCB (then DraftFCB), before taking the reins at DDB in 2010.

Stapleton meanwhile had his foundation years in South Africa, where he was part of the first creative team on the continent to win a coveted Black Pencil at the notoriously selective D&AD Awards – a feat that no one has since repeated. He joined Saatchi & Saatchi Australia as an executive creative director in 2012, before being headhunted by DDB in New Zealand.

The pair have formed a formidable partnership at DDB, winning numerous awards and major accounts along the way, and rapidly growing the agency’s footprint in the local market.

Replacing the pair will be no easy feat, with competition for top executives hitting fever pitch in recent months.

These high-profile departures mark the continuation of a major shuffle executive across many of New Zealand’s biggest advertising agencies.

This includes the recent appointment of Mark Cochrane as the new boss of Saatchi & Saatchi, Angela Watson as managing director of Colenso BBDO, Strahan Wallis as CEO of the Clemenger Group, former FCB chief creative officer Tony Clewett’s move to Federation and the departure of Stanley St chief creative officer Regan Grafton for Culture & Theory.

DDB may well have to take the search for a replacement abroad, given there aren’t many options left available in the local market.

That said, leading the agency will be one of the most coveted jobs in the industry and there will be a few local suitors willing to put their hands up for the roles.

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