the Martin Agency Marketing People on the Move

Martin Agency elevates Karen Costello to chief creative officer, replacing Joe Alexander


By Kyle O'Brien, Creative Works Editor

January 26, 2018 | 4 min read

The Martin Agency has elevated Karen Costello from executive creative director to chief creative officer, filling a hole left by the controversial departure of Joe Alexander.

Karen Costello

Karen Costello elevated to chief creative officer at the Martin Agency

Costello is the first female chief creative officer in the company’s 53-year history. She came to the Martin Agency as executive creative director in September 2017 from Deutsch LA to help lead the Mondelez account, both globally and domestically.

The chief creative officer will remain on that business, which includes a brand portfolio of Oreo, Ritz, Good Thins and Chips Ahoy, in addition to leading the agency’s overall creative efforts.

She and Jerry Hoak, formerly of Droga5, had taken interim lead creative roles in December of last year following the departure of former chief creative officer Alexander. Hoak will continue in an elevated leadership role, with a promotion to executive creative director and managing partner.

Costello said: “To have the opportunity to lead and work alongside some of the smartest, most talented and hugest-hearted humans in this industry is a privilege and an honor. Creating positive impact and change has also always been a huge part of what drives me so the added opportunity to work alongside a change agent like Kristen Cavallo, who shares that drive, just makes me even more excited to get to work.”

Cavallo, chief executive officer for the Martin Agency, said of Costello: “What do Christiane Amanpour, Hoda Kotb, Robin Wright, Tina Smith, Bozoma Saint John and Karen Costello have in common? They are supremely talented women in their fields, who were there all along, ready to lead.

"This isn’t overcorrection or an optics play. This is earned. This is preparation. This is opportunity, grabbed. I’m so excited for what’s ahead, I can’t stop grinning.”

During her 25-plus years in advertising, Costello has launched brands, created iconic, long-running campaigns and touched just about every category in marketing from cars to fashion to music.

Some of her recent creative work includes creating the first ever “living catalog” – a 24/7 live streaming event for Target’s Back to College, having kids create an entire back-to-school campaign and making history with the first music video ever created live on TV for Target and Gwen Stefani during the Grammys.

Costello is a strong advocate of using creativity as a driver to create social change, inside and outside of the agency world. She has encouraged the creation and support of leadership roles for women in advertising, delivered keynotes nationwide about leveling the industry’s playing field, helped create humane work environments, built volunteer workforces to address local community needs, and worked on political campaigns.

Alexander, her predecessor, either left the Richmond, Virginia-based IPG agency out of choice or because of allegations of sexual misconduct, depending on whose account you read.

In December, the Martin Agency’s president Beth Rilee-Kelley and its former chief executive officer Matt Williams released a joint statement regarding Alexander's departure. The statement came after Alexander had said that he "chose to leave", while Williams and Riley-Kelley called his behavior "inexcusable" and said the "only alternative" to the allegations against him "was for him to leave The Martin Agency."

They stated, "The decision was ours."

The 4As rescinded Alexander's '100 People Who Make Advertising Great' honor it gave him, after the allegations and his departure from the agency were announced.

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