Nigel Marsh to depart Y&R Brands and be replaced by Russel Howcroft

Y&R Brands boss Nigel Marsh is to step down from one of the advertising industry’s toughest jobs, Mumbrella has learned. He will be replaced by GPY&R CEO Russel Howcroft.

Marsh, who brought stability to the group after a turbulent time, will depart in the next few weeks, Mumbrella understands.

Although he could not be reached this afternoon, Marsh has previously used career breaks to publish books and develop a career as a public speaker.  

His departure comes weeks after he gave a stirring speech at TEDx Sydney urging a greater work-life balance.

Marsh took on the tough Y&R brands brief in mid 2008. Before that he had been at the helm of Leo Burnett and was one of the team who created Earth Hour for WWF.

At the time of Marsh’s appontment to Y&R Brands the job was described as “a hospital pass”. Agencies in the group include GPY&R, Campaign Palace and Wunderman.

At the time GPY&R was at an all time low, with a messy court case – since settled – still raging over the purchase of George Patterson. Early in his tenure, Telstra fired GPY&R, which led to several redundancies.

Russel Howcroft Gruen MumbrellaSince then, GPY&R has been restructured with Howcroft – who also appears on ABC’s The Gruen Transfer – rising up from running the Melbourne business to a national role.

There have also been several key hirings by Marsh, including Jon Steel, one of the world’s most respected strategic planners.

New business wins have included Nokia, Microsoft, Medibank, Perpetual, V8, Virgin and Generation One.

Creatively, while GPY&R is still not back to the powerhouse it once was, it has won Gold at the Cannes Lions for the last three years running.

Mumbrella understands that key clients were given the news of Marsh’s departure earlier today.

Marsh’s departure and Howcroft’s succession appears to have been a planned process which also saw Mark Mackay returning last month to run the Campaign Palace.

Update: B&T reports Y&R global CEO Hamish McLennan as saying:

“Nigel’s brief was to attract new leadership for the group companies, to manage and coach, and to provide new energy and confidence for the various agencies under his leadership. He has succeeded on all these counts. We are sorry to see Nigel go. We will miss his clarity, enthusiasm, strategic skills and his unfailing honesty.”

“It will be a seamless transition. Russel and his team have done a great job in rebuilding George Patterson Y&R and he is the logical choice to take over the Y&R Brands role.”

And Marsh told B&T:

“It’s been an intense and rewarding time. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved. Future prospects are genuinely exciting and in Russel we have the perfect successor to realise that potential.

“I am going to take a break and write my third book before considering my next corporate role but will be on hand to assist if required.”


  1. Peter McDonald
    6 Jul 10
    4:03 pm

  2. There would be very few in the industry that could have so patiently re-invigorated Y&R Brands in the highly professional and self-effacing manner that Nigel has – plus given those who will succeed him, the necessary room, unflinching support and profiling opportunities. Bravo! Bravo!

  3. Frankie
    6 Jul 10
    4:04 pm

  4. He is a great bloke, a great boss and great ambassador for advertising world. I would love to know where he will turn up next.

  5. Gezza
    6 Jul 10
    4:10 pm

  6. @ Frankie: He will be serving school lunches at Bronte Public. Where else?

  7. Frankie
    6 Jul 10
    4:11 pm

  8. Where did my comment go?

  9. Frankie
    6 Jul 10
    4:12 pm

  10. oh it’s back now, all good. @Gezza and loving it too I bet.

  11. Betty Boo
    6 Jul 10
    4:20 pm

  12. Nigel took over mid 2008 not 2006, Tim

  13. mumbrella
    6 Jul 10
    4:24 pm

  14. Thanks, Betty. My bad – now updated.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  15. Matt Batten
    6 Jul 10
    4:24 pm

  16. Nigel has been a constant source of invigoration and inspiration who always has the time to talk with his senior staff. Thank you Nigel for the mentorship you’ve given even though you didn’t realise it. More than a boss, you’ve been a mate.

  17. Wilhaus
    6 Jul 10
    4:24 pm

  18. No doubt he’ll get getting some of that work/life balance quality family time stuff.

    Good on him

  19. Sick of Scott Rhodie
    6 Jul 10
    4:37 pm

  20. No doubt Scott Rhodie will have some complaint about this in the podcast.

  21. Jacques Burger
    6 Jul 10
    4:44 pm

  22. Nigel Marsh has been an amazing person to work for – top class bloke with great values and qualities such as integrity, honesty and kindness not to mention smarts – things that have become very rare in our industry. We can all learn from him

  23. Chris Jeffares
    6 Jul 10
    7:34 pm

  24. Looking forward to reading “Fat again, Forty five, Underlaid and a Social Media star”.
    Thanks for the honest and clarity.

  25. Herald Sun Reader
    6 Jul 10
    8:55 pm

  26. Good luck Nigel

  27. james blackwood
    7 Jul 10
    7:52 am

  28. Love your work Nigel. All the very best.

  29. nick williams
    7 Jul 10
    11:25 am

  30. like it Chris # 12. my vote is for “Thinner, Older, Poorer”

    good luck Nigel. Whatever you do next, you’ll do it well & with humanity and you’ll make it more enjoyable and meaningful for those around you

  31. Praveen
    7 Jul 10
    11:45 am

  32. Go Russ.

  33. Anonymous
    7 Jul 10
    4:54 pm

  34. Can’t wait for Nigel’s next book!
    And good luck Rusty

  35. Alan Smith
    8 Jul 10
    9:49 am

  36. Great to see Nigel again shaking up the sector. Time he came into the wackier world of public relations!

  37. Les Davidson
    8 Jul 10
    5:01 pm

  38. Are you available for babysitting next week Nigel?