LONDON — In a major shake-up of the leadership of VCCP technology agency Harvard, Rachel Friend, previously CEO of Weber Shandwick and W Communications, has been appointed to lead the agency, while current CEO, Ellie Thompson, chair Louie St Claire and group strategy director, Pete Marcus are exiting the business after more than a decade to set up their own consultancy.

Lorna Hughes, managing director of Harvard’s PR & AR division (pictured, left), George Greenspan, MD of consumer sister agency Eat the Fox (right), and Andrew Last, managing director of Harvard’s marketing business (second left) will report to Friend (second right), who takes on the newly-created role of executive chair.

Initially working alongside Thompson in a handover period until the end of February, Friend will take on the role leading Harvard, which grew to 100 people last year, with immediate effect. She left W Communications last summer after two years to spend more time with her family; former Mischief CEO Frankie Cory was announced as W's joint CEO in October. 

Friend will report into Jo Parker, group CEO of VCCP Business, which acquired Sydney-headquartered agency Sling & Stone in 2021, and Method in 2018. Parker said: “We thank Ellie, Louie and Pete for all they have done for Harvard, I have loved working with them and wish them all the very best for their new venture.

“Rachel joins at an exciting period for the business with the development of a global proposition with sister tech agencies Method and Sling & Stone – who together already share 14 clients – as well as continuing to build its integrated offer, with a real focus on creativity for clients. Rachel is a perfect fit and we are delighted she is joining the team.”

Friend told PRovoke Media: “Harvard is so well respected and we share the same values. It’s ambitious and progressive – especially around culture and its dedication to DE&I – and is doing some really interesting things with really talented people. There’s also a new element in building out a global proposition, which will be part of my role, and I’ll also be focusing on building out integration and creative, and continuing to do really good, award-winning work."

She added: “I have a brilliant team around me – in the three MDs, the wider board and SLT and, equally importantly, the entire agency who deliver such impactful work. I can’t wait to get started.”

The three exiting leaders have not yet announced details of their new venture. Thompson, who stepped up to Harvard CEO in 2021 when former CEO St Claire became non-executive chair, told PRovoke Media: “Louie, Pete and I have had the most incredible 12 years at Harvard, rebuilding the agency from a team of 11 to over 100 brilliant people today.

“We have grown every single year during that time, sought to challenge ourselves and the industry every day and embarked on a DE&I journey that has driven – and I know will continue to drive – lasting change in the industry. It has been an absolute privilege to work alongside everyone - internally, clients and partners - who have been part of Harvard’s story over the past 12 years.”