Another Loss For Razorfish As Chairman Kokich Exits For Marchex

kokich-marchexWas Bob Lord the only beam bracing the dam at Razorfish?

The Publicis-owned shop lost another bigwig this morning with the exit of Chairman Clark Kokich for a new job as chief strategy officer at Marchex. Kokich was a mainstay at Razorfish, having previously been CEO and president.

Tallying the headcount losses, Razorfish has lost three members of its core management team in recent weeks, along with larger numbers of junior executives. After Lord left in July for the CEO job at AOL Networks, the company lost Global Chief Media Officer Jeff Lanctot.

(Update: Razorfish disputes this narrative, saying Kokich’s departure has been planned for months and that the agency still has a deep executive bench. Shannon Denton, new North America CEO, is a 14-year employee. Global CEO Pete Stein has been with ‘The Fish’ for 17 years. Furthermore Kokich was evidently not a regular presence at the company’s Seattle headquarters. “For the past several years Clark has been very distant from the day to day business, which he will be the first to tell you is what fuels his passion,” it said in a statement.)

In any case, Razorfish discontent has grown steadily since Publicis bought the agency from Microsoft several years back, but has worsened of late. Among the gripes is a sense that (a) Maurice Levy has not moved fast enough to capture opportunities around technology and data; and (b) sister agencies at Publicis are not incentivized to work together, and therefore compete internally for business more than they cooperate. For example, Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond has rarely if ever brought in capabilities from Razorfish, despite the agencies’ alignment within the VivaKi network and the oft-mentioned potential to cooperate and cross-pitch.

The megamerger proposal between Publicis and Omnicom may also factor into the talent flight, as Razorfish managers ask themselves what sounds better: a long and convoluted integration process, or the more creative challenges associated with startup life?

Razorfish’s loss is Marchex’s gain. The mobilecentric ad platform offers a range of solutions including click-to-call analytics and contextual PPC ads, and Kokich’s role will be to accelerate business development of these tools.

Marchex CEO Russell Horowitz said in a statement, “Clark’s unique skills, insights and experience with transformative markets, combined with his deep understanding of sales, client development and marketing, is precisely what we need as we look to accelerate our opportunity with mobile and call advertising.”

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1 Comment

  1. Look at the talent drain at Razorfish. Look at the talent drain at Digitas. Look at the latest survey data that indicates major marketers have decided that digital advertising should move in-house. Perhaps these things are inter-related.

    Perhaps the best and brightest are leaving the biggest digital agencies because they don’t feel that this is where the biggest marketers are going to be turning for digital ideas and solutions in the next decade.

    I’m just putting the pieces together. I’m sure there are other ways to look at this.