Publicis Names Female Chairman at Saatchi After Diversity Flap

(Bloomberg) -- Advertising giant Publicis Groupe SA promoted Kate Stanners to global chairman of its Saatchi & Saatchi agency, appointing a female top executive to replace Kevin Roberts, who left the company after controversial comments on gender diversity.

Publicis was said to lean toward promoting a woman at the agency following the departure of Roberts this summer. Roberts announced his resignation at the beginning of August as executive chairman days after he said in an interview that he doesn’t spend any time on gender issues at the agency, and suggested that some women weren’t interested in advancing in their careers.

Publicis Names Female Chairman at Saatchi After Diversity Flap

Kate Stanners

Source: Saatchi & Saatchi

The appointment of Stanners, who will keep her current role as global chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, came Thursday as Publicis announced a broader executive reshuffle. The company also promoted female executives at other agencies, including Publicis Worldwide and Leo Burnett, Paris-based Publicis Groupe said in a statement.

Saatchi & Saatchi will continue to be led by CEO Robert Senior, the company said.

Following Roberts’ comments, Publicis Chief Executive Officer Maurice Levy had said that the remarks didn’t uphold the company’s policy of zero tolerance for behavior or commentary counter to the “spirit of Publicis Groupe and its celebration of difference.”

The ad industry has muddled through several incidents this year that raised questions about its attitudes toward women. In March, a female employee of Madison Avenue firm J. Walter Thompson filed a discrimination lawsuit accusing the agency’s CEO, Gustavo Martinez, of making racist and sexist comments. WPP Plc, JWT’s parent, stood by him initially, fueling a war of words between Publicis’s Levy and WPP CEO Martin Sorrell. Martinez resigned that month.