kaplan_karen_finalHill Holliday announced today that Karen Kaplan, 30-year veteran of the agency, will succeed Mike Sheehan as CEO.  Sheehan will move to the role of Chairman.

Kaplan joined Hill Holliday in 1982 as a receptionist; she was hired by agency founder Jack Connors after he had rejected 40 other applicants for the job. During her impressive tenure she worked in nearly every department at the agency, rising in the ranks of account management while building the business of clients including Bank of America, John Hancock, Liberty Mutual, Dunkin’ Donuts, TJX, Novartis and Chili’s to name a few. In January of 2001 Kaplan was promoted to Managing Director of the Boston Office, and at the end of that year was named President of the Boston office. In June 2007 she was named President of the network.Together over the past ten years as CEO and President, Sheehan and Kaplan have proved an unbeatable team, the driving force behind Hill Holliday’s growth to more than $2 billion in annual billings and innovative, business building ideas for blue chip clients such as Bank of America, Dunkin’ Donuts, Liberty Mutual, John Hancock, Novartis, Cigna, Major League Baseball and Chili’s. In recent years they drove financial growth and grew new business, led the charge to lure world class talent to the agency – including Modernista! founder Lance Jensen as Chief Creative Officer – and successfully built integration between strategy, media, creative and analytics.

“Karen and I have worked closely together for the better part of two decades. There is no one who has worked harder or who is better positioned to lead Hill Holliday to new levels of growth and success. She was born to be CEO of Hill Holliday, and I am absolutely thrilled to hand the reins over to her,” noted Mike Sheehan.   Sheehan will become Chairman of the agency for a two-year period. “And not a day more,” Sheehan said. “I’m a creative person by trade. I always like to have a deadline.”

Anne Finucane, Global Strategy and Marketing Officer at Bank of America, said, “Karen has been a great partner to me for many years. She’s that rare talented executive who recognizes the power of great creative while being deeply committed to our strategy and business success. Best of all, she knows how to tie it all together to create modern marketing that works. She’s savvy, confident and driven; a born leader with sharp instincts, and there’s no one better equipped to take Hill Holliday – and its clients – into the future.”

Kaplan was selected by Advertising Age for its “Women to Watch” special report honoring the nation’s top women in advertising, marketing and media. In 2012 she was named by Advertising Age as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Advertising, and by Business Insider as one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in Advertising.

Kaplan’s accomplishments outside Hill Holliday are equally impressive. In 2012 she was elected Chairman of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (only the second woman in its 102 year history) and is the immediate past President of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum. She serves on the Board of Governors of the Chief Executives’ Club of Boston, on the Board of Directors of Jobs for Massachusetts, the National Association of Corporate Directors New England Chapter, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, and the Post Office Square Trust, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, an action-oriented community of the most effective CEOs, heads of state, Nobel Prize winners, and non-governmental leaders in the world.

Hill Holliday was recently ranked the 14th largest advertising agency in the U.S. by Advertising Age, the only New England agency to make the top 25. The agency was named Media magazine’s full service Agency of the Year for 2011 and 2012, and is the only agency to win Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year four years in a row.