Translation, the independent agency led by media mogul and industry outsider Steve Stoute, confirmed today that it has agreed to part ways with CCO John Norman. The arrangement has reportedly been in the works for some time.
The outgoing executive, who has worked in advertising for more than 25 years, will remain with the agency for the immediate future in a consulting role.
“John Norman’s leadership helped drive Translation’s momentum and build our industry-leading creative reputation,” said Stoute in a statement. “After nearly five years with the agency, John has decided to leave his position as CCO, remaining on the team as a consultant to ensure a smooth transition. We thank John for his dedication and commitment to creative excellence, and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”
Norman joined Translation in early 2014 as partner and creative chief, succeeding Chris Cereda. His hire, along with that of president and former Toms Shoes CMO Nils Peyron, was positioned as part of an attempt to turn the operation into a more “traditional” creative shop.
“This was a tough decision,” Norman told Adweek today regarding his exit. “With the creative infrastructure in place as well as continuous momentum at Translation, the time seemed right for me to enter the next chapter of my career. I’m confident we will continue to see Translation as a top leader in creating culturally impactful brand work.”
Before joining Translation, Norman had been CCO at TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. and The Martin Agency, where he was replaced by the now-departed Joe Alexander. He started his career as a designer at Nike before moving into the agency world with Wieden + Kennedy.
Steve Stoute is a former record executive and producer who made his name working with ’90s R&B and hip-hop stars like Rihanna, Nas and Mary J. Blige. He served as president of urban music at Sony before launching a venture called Translation Consultation in 2004 and developed a relationship with Jay-Z, who served as a partner in Translation Advertising when it opened in 2008. IPG bought a majority stake in the company in 2007, and that relationship lasted until 2011.
The following year, Translation made waves by winning Bud Light away from mcgarrybowen and later became agency of record for the NBA, which had been with GS&P.
Translation rarely pitches against other agencies in AOR contests. But it does often pick up project work like this most recent spot for Nike, which launched in June.
In many ways, Stoute remains an outsider. His most recent venture, UnitedMasters, is an “artist services company” that launched last November with $70 million in funding from Google parent Alphabet as well as 20th Century Fox and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Stoute positioned the company as an “alternative to the major-label system” for up-and-coming artists seeking to distribute and monetize their music.
This week’s news marks the second major executive departure at Translation in recent months after former president Patrick Lafferty left in March to fill the same role at mcgarrybowen. The agency is still looking for his replacement.
“At this time, Translation is actively recruiting for a new president,” said an agency spokesperson. “In the meantime, John Norman continues to provide his creative leadership at Translation to ensure a smooth transition of his current projects.”