A funny thing happened in June when Big Spaceship CEO Michael Lebowitz was picking the brains of R/GA veteran and planning chief Andrea Ring about potential candidates to fill his top strategy role: Ring became a candidate herself.
It didn't happen immediately. But the more Lebowitz talked with Ring, the more apparent it became that he was looking at the best person for the role.
Ring, however, was rising in the R/GA ranks and wasn't looking to leave her agency home of nearly 10 years, where she led a 40-person department at the shop's 800-person New York headquarters. In fact, she told Lebowitz that larger agencies had called in the past, offered her broader roles and she had turned them down. This time, oddly, however, Lebowitz offered a smaller position—chief strategy officer at a 105-person agency with a dozen planners—and won.
How Lebowitz succeeded is a classic case of perseverance, moxie and just plain chemistry. Also, lucky for Lebowitz, Ring was intrigued by the chance to help shape an entire agency as one of four top leaders. In addition, she's fond of challenger brands. So, Ring is OK with leaving the premiere digital shop in advertising for an up-and-comer. But that doesn't mean it was easy to resign.
"This is by far the most difficult professional decision in my life," Ring told Adweek. "It's really tough. I know that place, you know? It's my family."
After working at Digital Pulp, JWT and outside of advertising, Ring grew up at R/GA, starting as a senior planner on Johnson & Johnson and rising to svp of planning in New York, working on Nike, Samsung and Google accounts. Along the way, the planning function grew more than twentyfold as the agency evolved from a domestic digital specialist to global generalist with a digital bent.
Interestingly, Ring likens Big Spaceship, an independent shop based in Brooklyn, to a younger version of R/GA, with similar savvy, tech-minded people. In that context, the transition to the new shop should be smooth. The agency's top accounts are Google, Samsung mobile and Nestlé's Purina.
Lebowitz, for his part, simply feels fortunate to have plucked a "great, rigorous strategic mind" out of an agency that he respects and admires. "It was a tough hire for us," Lebowitz said. "I consider myself thrilled and wholly lucky to have her."
Ring, who fills a void left by the exit of vp of strategy Mark Pollard in October, will start next week.