• Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021
John McGarry, co-founder of indie agency mcgarrybowen, dies at 81
John McGarry

John McGarry, a founding father of the venerable ad agency mcgarrybowen in 2002, passed away last week (10/7) at the age of 81 after a long battle with Parkinson’s

McGarry broke into the agency business as an account coordinator at Y&R New York. He rose up the ranks to become chairman and CEO of Y&R, which during his tenure was acquired by WPP. 

McGarry went on to team with Y&R cohorts, Gordon Bowen and Stewart Owen, to launch mcgarrybowen. McGarry was CEO of mcgarrybowen while Bowen served as chief creative officer and Owen as chief strategy officer. That shop became at one point the largest independent agency in New York and the 10th largest indie shop in the U.S., turning out work for such brands as Verizon, Disney, Kraft, United Airlines, Sears and Procter & Gamble.

Ultimately in 2008 Dentsu Holdings USA acquired mcgarrybowen and its digital arm Continuity. McGarry served as chairman and CEO of Dentsumcgarrybowen for some four years before transitioning to an executive advisor capacity for Dentsu Group. A couple years later he stepped down.

McGarry leaves behind a legacy of work that left an indelible impact on the industry. He also mentored and helped nurture the careers of assorted people.  Dentsu posted on Facebook a tribute to McGarry which read in part, ““It is with sadness that we acknowledge the passing of mcgarrybowen founder John McGarry, His passion for our business was unbounded and infectious. He loved what we did, who we did it for, and most of all, who we did it with. John believed that anything was not only possible, but probable. That spirit helped shape the agency’s success and growth across 33 countries, with thousands of talented individuals who bring his dream to life every day at dentsuMB. We will honor his legacy by forever embodying this spirit and creating work he would be proud of.”

McGarry is survived by his wife Gilda, two children and four grandchildren.

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