James McGrath steps down as creative director-at-large of Clemenger Group, new Creative Council chair announced

Clemenger Group creative director at-large, James McGrath, has stepped down from his role after more than 15 years in the business.

McGrath has been involved in the group during some of its most successful years and was present at Mumbrella’s CMO retreat in 2019 when Clemenger BBDO Melbourne picked up the Creative Agency of the Decade award.

A spokesperson for Clemenger Group told Mumbrella he will remain in business in a consulting role.

As a result, chief creative officer at Clemenger BBDO Wellington, Brigid Alkema, has been appointed as chair of Clemenger Group’s Creative Council, as well as being appointed to the group’s board. McGrath was previously chair of the council.

Alkema and McGrath

Alkema is the latest appointment to the board, joining recent appointees Lee Leggett, Dani Bassil, and Angela Watson. This means of the four board members that have left in the past year, Jonathan Isaacs, Justin Hind, James Neale, and Jim Gall, all have been replaced by women.

Leggett was appointed as the new CHEP Network CEO on Tuesday, and on yesterday’s Mumbrellacast, the team discuss the new era for Clemenger Group, and the incoming shake-up to its board.

Alkema joined Clemenger in 2000, moving to the Sydney office for a stint, before returning to Wellington in 2006, later appointed ECD in 2015, then CCO on 2021.

She is also the first female from NZ to be appointed to the BBDO global Creative Board.

Alkema said: “The role, as I see it, is to ensure our creative culture continues to thrive – making sure our talent, our relationships, and the environments we operate in, are nurtured to create the space and energy for magic.

“James is one of the most elegant creative leaders and contemporary thinkers in our industry. With intelligence, integrity, depth, and precision he provoked greatness in the work and our people year after year. He has influenced me greatly. I’ll draw upon everything I’ve learned from him to carry the creative baton with care, flair and pride.”

Under McGrath’s creative stewardship, Clemenger BBDO became one of the most awarded agencies in the world, including winning agency of the year at Cannes and DA&D in 2017, as well as being awarded Mumbrella’s agency of the decade.

Clemenger Group CEO Les Timar said: “Clemenger BBDO Wellington has worked on some of the most complex problems of our time, such as racism, road safety, toxic masculinity, climate change and COVID-19. Brigid’s creative wisdom and brilliance has transformed our work and enabled it to truly impact culture and our society.

“We are excited to see Brigid’s creative leadership extend to the Group – she is highly respected by her peers, our clients and the industry, and will build on the important creative foundations laid by James McGrath.

“I would also like to acknowledge the immense contribution of James McGrath to Clemenger Group and Clemenger BBDO. His collaborative approach and understanding of the critical balance between creativity and effectiveness, has been at the centre of our work with the country’s leading brands and companies.”

McGrath first moved into his current part-time role in 2021, stepping down from his long-time creative chairman position. 

Alkema will continue as CCO in Wellington, supporting and mentoring the group’s creative leadership across both Australian and New Zealand markets.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.