After 19 years at Clemenger Group and eight years at CHE Proximity, Chris Howatson has departed both agencies, on his way to a new opportunity as founder and chief executive at Howatson+White.
News of Howatson’s departure emerged in November, with the former CEO of CHE Proximity and Clemenger revealing he planned to launch his own agency, alongside CHE Proximity’s executive creative director, Ant White.
It was revealed then that Howatson would remain with CHE Proximity until the end of February to enable a smooth transition with the agency’s management team. However, Howatson appears to have departed ahead of schedule.
A well-known face in Australian advertising, Howatson left his tenure at the company with a touching message for colleagues and compatriots across the industry on Friday, in a LinkedIn post that has garnered more than 1,000 reactions.
“After 8 years, I finished at CHE Proximity on Friday,” Howatson writes.
“During that time, there wasn’t a day I didn’t feel lucky to be part of the most incredible team in the world. CHEPPERs as we called ourselves, ‘run toward the fire’. look after each other, love the work and exist for our clients.
“It’s at 2am working on a presentation when you truly realise how wonderful the person sitting next to you really is. I am most grateful for the passion, effort and friendship of everyone at CHEP – present and alumni. Thank you. Thank you. I hopefully gave expression to my love for you all on Friday, at what was the best send-off anyone could dream of.
“Keep shining brightly everyone, Chris.”
You can check out Howatson’s parting message, in full, for yourself, below.
Commenting on Howatson’s departure, Thinkerbell founder Adam Ferrier wished him well.
“Best of luck Chris, especially, as your golden handcuffs must have been rather chunky—and the opportunity cost of your decision high. Much respect to you and Ant for giving it a crack—I reckon you’ll do ok!”
“Always brilliantly said,” CHE Proximity client partner Jessica Coulson wrote, in response to Howatson’s post.
“Thank you for your amazing leadership! It’s because of you, we all individually shone a little bit brighter.”
Clemenger Group board director James Neale said: “All class Howie as always. Massive congrats on everything you have achieved at CHEP and of course best of luck to both you and Ant for the future.”
Velocity Frequent Flyer chief marketing and commercial officer Dean Chadwich also commented: “Many people strive to leave a legacy but rarely do. Well done Chris and all the best for the next one too.”
Facebook Global Business Group head of independent agencies ANZ Harry Lowes added Howatson should be proud of his legacy. “It was brilliant being on that journey with you for some of the way,” he said.
The announcement of Howatson’s departure from CHE Proximity came as the agency weathered the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing clients and forcing a number of staff layoffs in 2020.
Yet, the agency was a standout at the B&T Awards, taking home five awards including Best Media Campaign, Best Data Driven Marketing Campaign, Victorian Agency Of The Year, Marketing Tech Company Of The Year and Direct Response/Performance Agency Of The Year.
CHEP also managed to land some very big wins for 2020, including Samsung and 7-Eleven.
B&T reported at the time that it was understood the “win at all costs” pitch to snare the Samsung business caused a rift between Howatson and Clemenger BBDO chair Robert Morgan.
However, Morgan later acknowledged the contribution of Howatson to the group.
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