Campbell Ewald CEO fired amid racial controversy

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 18:34:59-05

The memo was short, if not sweet.

Interpublic Group (IPG) simply announced Friday that it has "terminated Jim Palmer, the CEO of Campbell Ewald, effectively immediately. Leadership of the organization will be assumed by Kevin Wertz, the agency’s President."

The two-sentence announcement comes days after a racist inter-office email was published by Adweek's AgencySpy blog, in which a white, creative leader at Campbell Ewald's San Antonio office invited staffers to take part in a "Ghetto Day" complete with "ghetto music," "malt 45s," "ghetto terminology," and even drugs and prostitutes.

The email was sent out last October, but CEO Jim Palmer reportedly didn't inform the higher-ups at the parent company, IPG. The email's author was also fired earlier this week.

But the repercussions go beyond staff changes. The agency lost one of its largest clients, financial services group, USAA.

Spokesman Roger Wildermuth released a brief statement to 7 Action News:

We will be searching for a new agency that aligns with USAA’s culture and core values.

This is the latest blow to the 105-year-old Detroit agency. In 2010, General Motors pulled its Chevrolet account, after 91 years. The U.S. Postal Service cut ties with the agency, and two years ago, Campbell Ewald lost its $280 million account with Cadillac as the agency was moving its offices from Warren to Downtown Detroit.

Kevin Wertz, the man tapped to take the helm at Campbell Ewald, was promoted by Jim Palmer last year to president of the Detroit and Los Angeles offices, as well as the San Antonio office, the very office where the racist email was sent.

Officials with Campbell Ewald and now-former CEO Jim Palmer were not immediately available for comment Friday.