Kinney is leaving Mother to join Ogilvy.

Headshot of Minda Smiley

By Minda Smiley

3 mins ago

As agencies continue to make pledges and plans to combat systemic racism internally, Ogilvy has brought in a new DEI lead to help it achieve it make progress. The WPP-owned agency has hired James Kinney to serve as global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. He takes over responsibilities previously held by Donna Pedro, who’s served as Ogilvy’s chief diversity officer since 2007. According to the agency, she’s moved into a role with WPP, but it did not share further details. 

Kinney will also become chief people officer for North America. He is not replacing anyone directly in this role. 

His appointment is the latest in a string of leadership changes at Ogilvy. In July, Andy Main left Deloitte Digital to join the agency as global CEO. Later in the year, Ogilvy hired Devika Bulchandani to serve as North America CEO and global chairwoman of advertising. Ogilvy also recently promoted Jag Dhanji to global chief people officer. 

Kinney will work alongside Bulchandani and Dhanji at Ogilvy. He joins from Mother, where he’s served as U.S. chief talent officer for less than a year. Before joining Mother, he was Giant Spoon’s vice president of people. 

As global DEI lead, the agency said Kinney will be “partner with leaders across the company’s global network to develop and evolve practices, policies, and programs to ensure Ogilvy has a strong culture of belonging—one that fosters an open environment for everyone to thrive and be their authentic selves.” As chief people officer for North America, he’ll be tasked with overseeing “all aspects of talent management, recruitment, learning & development, and wellbeing” at Ogilvy.

“James brings with him a passion for people that is contagious and a unique approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and culture,” Main said in a statement. “Our success and sustainability as a business will be the direct result of our people as well as our ability to build a culture where the many dimensions of difference are represented and valued at all levels of the company. I’m thrilled to have James bringing his rich expertise to our leadership team.”

Kinney is joining Ogilvy at a time when agencies are investing in both DEI and talent-oriented roles, which are sometimes one and the same. Companies including You & Mr Jones and Havas Creative North America have recently brought on chief people officers for the first time, while IPG Mediabrands hired its first global chief culture officer last year. 

Additionally, agencies ranging from BBDO to David&Goliath have hired DEI leads in the past year. At the same time, companies such as Droga5 and McCann Worldgroup have promoted theirs. 

The shift comes as the industry make pledges and plans to combat systemic racism internally. Following the last year’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, most of advertising’s major holding companies, including WPP, shared workforce diversity figures in a bid to be more transparent about how many Black people they employ. Last June, WPP said it plans to spend $30 million over the next three years on “inclusion programs” and anti-racism charities.

In June, Ogilvy’s U.S. leadership sent an email an employees that detailed its five-part plan to become an “anti-racist agency.” In the note, it said Ogilvy would be joining WPP in committing to the 12 actions outlined in an open letter sent to the industry by 600 Black advertising professionals last year.