GIF of Frank's HeadshotGIF of Frank's Headshot

Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned MullenLowe U.S. has hired Frank Cartagena, New York chief creative officer at The Community, to become its CEO.

Cartagena will assume control of more than 400 people across MullenLowe's offices in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, effective Jan.16.

"I am choosing to double down on creativity," said Kristen Cavallo, who holds the dual roles of The Martin Agency CEO and MullenLowe Global CEO. "I look at an employee's skill set, not their job title. I do not assume that a PR person has to stay a PR person, or a creative person has to stay a creative person."

The Community did not immediately comment on Cartagena's
role. Starting in January, Lucas Bongioanni will lead the creative for The Community's New York office as senior VP, executive creative director, alongside global CCO and Founder Joaquin Molla, according to a source close to the business.

Cartagena has always worked on the creative side. Before joining Publicis Groupe's multicultural agency The Community, he was an executive creative director for Dentsu's 360i, where he worked on projects such as "The Maze," an Amazon Alexa interactive game based on the HBO show "Westworld." Earlier in his career, he was a creative director for IPG's Deutsch New York.
Cavallo has been acting as MullenLowe U.S. CEO since June after adding the global CEO title to her IPG remit last November.

"More than a job title, this role is about seizing an opportunity to drive a culture of creativity that is much greater than just a department," Cartagena said. "I'm ready to help shape and define the next chapter of MullenLowe for our people, our clients and the industry. I love the agency's challenger DNA and new modern positioning. I look forward to building on their momentum and becoming a place that consistently puts out some of the best work in the world."

Cavallo said she spends time evaluating whether a person's skill set can be transferable to another area. In the case of Cartagena, she saw the possibilities.

“A great CEO has to be galvanizing, has to have the trust and curiosity of his or her staff,” she said. “That leader has to have stable legs on unstable ground and has to be decisive; decisive with some sense of urgency. You’ll hear a lot [of executives say] ‘my first 90 days, my first 100 days, I did nothing. I went on a listening tour.’ Opportunities have expiration dates. There is a return on investment for being interesting both to your employees as well as to your clients. ‘You have to be agile,’ this is what we're saying to our clients, and we need to do that ourselves.”

Cavallo said she and Cartagena are aligned in their views on what it takes to be a CEO of an agency.

“Frank in particular has a new business track record that is hard to deny,” she said. “At the same time, he is entrepreneurial in the same way that the original founders of the company were. He has a strong gut instinct.”

Oreo, GM Work
Cartagena joined The Community as its New York chief creative officer in January 2020. Within a year of his joining, the agency reported 19% year-over-year revenue growth and added clients including TikTok, Samsung, Volkswagen and Planet Fitness.

While at 360i, Cartagena is also credited by MullenLowe as converting 90% of new business pitches into wins.

On the creative side, Cartagena delivered standout campaigns for The Community including the Oreo Thins Protection Program, in which famous parents including Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle Jonas, disguised their Oreo Thins in boring packaging (such as an old cookbook) so their kids don’t snack on them.

Under his direction, The Community also worked with McCann Detroit on this year’s General Motors Super Bowl spot starring Will Ferrell, in which it inserted its electric vehicles into Netflix shows. (General Motors will sit out the 2024 Super Bowl, ending a four-year streak of advertising in the Big Game.)

“I’ve always admired Frank’s work, with a healthy dose of envy, so having him join our team is a big win,” Cavallo said.

Cartagena’s appointment comes after MullenLowe’s global rebrand including a new octopus logo, aimed at reflecting a more dynamic look with a sense of movement and reinvention.

The agency also made several other U.S. leadership changes in September—among them, Kelly Fredrickson, former president of MullenLowe East, became its chief culture officer; Jordan Muse joined from The Martin Agency as president of MullenLowe East; and Javier Passerieu was promoted to president of MullenLowe West.

This article was originally published on Ad Age here.