Aarti Shah 25 Jan 2018 // 11:22PM GMT
SAN FRANCISCO — Access Communications founder/CEO Susan Butenhoff is stepping down after 26 years, as the agency president Matt Afflixio takes over the Omnicom firm.
Butenhoff's exit comes nearly two years after Omnicom PR merged Access Communications with Emanate PR to create a $35m entity competitive across technology and consumer brands. Butenhoff was named CEO of the new entity and told the Holmes Report under her tenure the agency saw steady growth but declined to give details on its 2017 revenue. Ketchum does not plan to replace the CEO role, however Afflixio will report directly to Ketchum global CEO Barri Rafferty as Butenhoff did.
"Susan has groomed a great successor in Matt Afflixio, partner and Access Brand Communications president, to lead the agency forward," Rafferty said. "She has been working closely with Matt and the Access senior leadership team to transition agency leadership and client relationships."
Butenhoff briefly held a dual-role as Access Communications CEO and the global tech lead for Ketchum. She relinquished the global tech lead role, which Ketchum also didn't replace, upon the merger with Emanate. She joined Ketchum in 2008 when the Omnicom agency bought Access Communications.
Butenhoff, who started her career at Ketchum, was an early pioneer in the technology PR space launching Access in 1991 to “translate bits and bytes into glitz and glamour” with clients that included Intuit and 2K (still clients), Apple, Adobe, Autodesk and PayPal. The firm ultimately expanded to consumer brands including Safeway, LUNA, Pernod Ricard, Blue Diamond and Rodan + Fields.
She told the Holmes Report that she would consider another industry role at some point, likely clientside — but for now, is taking a break.
She's also the latest in a series of high-ranking leaders to leave Ketchum. In 2017 former western region head Dave Chapman and research and analytics CEO David Rockland were among key departures, in addition to Ketchum shuttering its Pittsburgh office. Fellow Omnicom agency Cone Communications recently eliminated its CEO role as part of its merger with Porter Novelli.