Paul rebuilding Energy BBDO with Mallers as new CFO

Tonise Paul, Energy BBDO’s CEO

One thing we can say with certainty about Energy BBDO/Chicago CEO Tonise Paul,  she prefers to keep her agency’s internal business out of the public spotlight and away from prying eyes.

Which is no doubt why Energy BBDO’s new chief financial officer Bob Mallers joined the agency less than two weeks ago with no fanfare.  Zip. Zero.

In fact, sources say Mallers’ arrival merited only a brief internal memo.  A memo that merely noted Mallers was joining Energy BBDO as CFO and that Tim Smith, who previously had the job, was departing the agency. The memo, perhaps tellingly, did not specify whether Smith was taking on a new role elsewhere.  Just that he was leaving.

Why make a big deal out of Mallers’ arrival at Energy BDDO?

He certainly isn’t the most well-known executive working in Chicago advertising today.  But he does merit attention because two years ago he abruptly departed Draftfcb/Chicago at the same moment his powerful business associate — and close friend —  Draftfcb North American president Mark Modesto was shown the door at the agency.

When Draftfcb was forced to issue a press release at the time noting that Modesto had suddenly left the agency, no mention was made in that release that Mallers, then Draftfcb’s chief financial officer, abruptly exited with him. We were told by a Draftfcb spokesman at the time that Mallers was omitted from the release because no one is interested in a financial guy.  Jeez.

S.C. Johnson loss overshadowed Modesto and Mallers’ exit

As shocking as the sudden exit of both Modesto and Mallers was when it happened, it became even more of a subject of interest several months later when home products giant S.C. Johnson, a longtime Draftfcb client, unexpectedly and stunningly announced it was putting its entire global account in review — an account that was the bedrock of all the accounts then housed at Draftfcb.

Modesto was known to have been the top honcho on the S.C. Johnson account for many years. And as Modesto’s close trusted financial guru, Mallers, sources say, was undoubtedly close to the S.C. Johnson business as well. 

No one at S.C. Johnson or at Draftfcb has ever spoken publicly and on the record about what caused the huge, devastating rift between client and agency. But speculation at the time had Modesto and his cohorts, including Mallers, possibly trying to abscond with the S.C. Johnson account and take it to another agency. Or perhaps start a new shop to service the huge and lucrative piece of business.

After his unceremonious ouster from Draftfcb, Modesto, as we now know, turned up a year later at Marc USA/Chicago for a brief spell, before moving on several months ago to become North American CEO of Ryan Partnership, based in Chicago.

Mallers, however, disappeared from the ad world for the past two years. Sources say he worked for much of that time as a finance guy at a local law firm.  Until, that is, Energy BBDO’s Tonise Paul reached out to him and made him the agency’s new chief financial officer — just about a year after Energy BBDO, to the surprise of some observers, nabbed about half of the global S.C. Johnson business that used to be at Draftfcb.

Paul rebuilding the S.C. Johnson team?

Why Mallers? Why now? And why did Paul want to risk resurrecting memories of all that ugliness that happened two years ago at Draftfcb? Surely, she wouldn’t have selected Mallers unless she knew it would meet with the approval of S.C. Johnson executives.

Paul on Tuesday was in Racine, Wis., at the global headquarters of S.C. Johnson for a long day of meetings.  We were told through an agency spokeswoman that she had no comment about her choice of Mallers.

We also were told Mallers himself wasn’t interested in discussing his return to the ad agency world and to Energy BBDO in particular.  “He just wants to do his job,” said an Energy BBDO spokeswoman.  It’s the kind of job that those who knew and worked with him at Draftfcb say he is certainly well-equipped to handle.

And we suspect a big part of his new job at Energy BBDO will be to counsel Paul on all he learned about S.C. Johnson from his years at Draftfcb. 

Contact Lewis Lazare at