Martin Agency names replacement for Alexander; first female to hold top creative job

martin agency hq

The Martin Agency’s Headquarters in Shockoe Bottom. (BizSense file photo)

One month after the departure of its chief creative officer amid sexual misconduct claims, The Martin Agency has installed a woman to the post for the first time in the firm’s history.

The Richmond ad giant announced Friday it has named Karen Costello as its next CCO. She replaces Joe Alexander, who left Dec. 1 amid sexual harassment allegations from employees within the agency.

A 25-year industry vet, Costello joined Martin last year as executive creative director and had co-led the department in an interim role since Alexander’s departure.

The selection makes Costello the first woman to serve as CCO in Martin’s 53-year history – a feat that follows the recent appointment of Kristen Cavallo as the agency’s first female CEO.

Karen Costello

Karen Costello

“This isn’t overcorrection or an optics play,” Cavallo said in a release. “This is earned. This is preparation. This is opportunity, grabbed.”

The release also included comments from Costello, who called the appointment “a privilege and an honor.”

Costello and Cavallo were not available for further comment Friday.

Costello joined Martin in mid-2017 after serving as executive creative director in the Los Angeles office of Deutsch, an agency that, like Martin, is owned by New York-based Interpublic Group (IPG). Costello is credited with growing that office from 13 to more than 400 employees in its first few years and led creative direction for accounts such as Target, Georgia-Pacific and Zillow.

At Martin, Costello has led creative for global and domestic Mondelēz business, a brand portfolio that includes Oreo, Ritz, Good Thins, and Chips Ahoy. Costello will continue leading those accounts in addition to her CCO duties.

Since Alexander’s exit, Costello has been co-leading creative with Jerry Hoak, a Droga5 vet and 2005 Brandcenter grad who joined Martin in mid-2016 as a senior vice president and group creative director. Friday’s announcement said Hoak is being promoted to executive creative director and managing partner.

Costello’s appointment is the latest news to come out of the agency since Cavallo was named CEO in mid-December. A week after IPG named Cavallo to that post, BizSense reported that Martin had won a multimillion-dollar contract to work with Virginia Tourism Corp.

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