RKCR/Y&R picks innovation boss to succeed Ben Kay who moves to WPP strategy role


By Seb Joseph | News editor

December 10, 2015 | 3 min read

RKCY/Y&R has named chief innovation officer Jon Sharpe (pictured) to replace Ben Kay as chief executive as the agency executive moves to WPP to take on the global role of planning director.

Sharpe’s promotion signals a shift in focus for the agency, which now make innovation a more integral part of its creative output. He will report into RKCR/Y&R chairman Mark Roalfe and Andrew Dimitriou, president of Y&R Europe.

He steered the agency’s innovation output for three years and is said to have played a key role in the agency’s high-profile win of the BBC account earlier this year. Sharpe also is credited with the integration of digital agency Saint into RKCR/Y&R as well as the launch of Spark Plug, an initiative that allows tech start-ups to set up shop at the agency in order to collaborate on its accounts.

Prior to joining the agency in 2012, Sharpe was the chief digital officer at M&C Saatchi and founder of digital agency Play before it was acquired by the former. Before setting up his own shop, he was chief executive at Itraffic and managing director at Agency.com.

Roalfe said of the promotion: “Ben has been part of our fabric for many years and we are grateful for all that he accomplished. His new role at WPP is tailor-made for him. At the same time, we are excited to move forward with Jon Sharpe as CEO. He is the ideal person to lead the agency now — the right expertise, great creative instincts and a deep understanding of how agencies must deliver solutions across today’s landscape.”

Meanwhile, Kay, who has been at RKCR/Y&R, for 11 years, seven of which he spent in the planning department – including a stint as chief strategy officer – will now return to the discipline albeit now at a global level. He became RKCR/Y&R’s chief in 2011 and prior to that worked at Y&R in New York after completing his WPP Fellowship.

Kay said of the appointment: “Rainey Kelly has been my home for a long time and will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m moving to the side of the business I love most, helping clients to develop strategies and ideas. Working across WPP with someone as brilliant as Jon Steel gives me a unique opportunity to do that.”


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