Cactus Names Kelly Rowntree Its New Chief Strategy Officer

Leading creative agency Cactus has added Kelly Rowntree as its new Chief Strategy Officer. Rowntree brings to Cactus a stunning career of achievement in global strategy for some of the world’s biggest brands including Sleep Number, Domino’s, Subaru, and Vrbo. She has held strategic leadership roles at agencies Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Carmichael Lynch and Campbell Mithun. Prior to joining Cactus, Rowntree was co-CEO and Director of Strategy at Griffin Archer, Minneapolis, MN.


According to Cactus President & CMO Jeff Graham, attracting a talent on the level of Rowntree is a game-changer for the agency – one made possible in part because of their 40 percent growth over the last two years (this year’s conservative estimate is for another 35 percent growth in 2022), and a 60 percent increase in staff headcount.


"Landing a chief strategy officer like Kelly is a next level hire for Cactus, and a key indicator of the emphasis we're placing on strategic excellence in our next phase of growth,” Graham says. “Her planning pedigree, her approach to strategy, and who Kelly is as a person makes her a perfect fit for us. I couldn't be more thrilled to have her lead our strategy department and join our agency leadership team.” 


Graham adds, “Cactus has been known primarily as a creative shop, but the best creative work I've ever been a part of is strategically-led, driven by a killer human insight. Kelly will help us uncover those insights on every project for every client at Cactus. I can't wait to see Kelly's contribution to the agency's Belief & Behavior Design™ strategic process, and how she will help us deepen our focus on driving consumer behavior change for clients."

Kelly Rowntree, Cactus’ new Chief Strategy Officer

For decades, Cactus has been known as an agency that tackles challenges of every stripe in the areas of public and behavioral health – smoking cessation and prevention, suicide prevention, opioid abuse, responsible cannabis use, reducing stigma and mainstreaming mental health services. Dubbed Belief & Behavior Design, the company melds evidence-based strategies with creativity to get people to stop bad habits, and start engaging in healthy ones. 


At Griffin Archer, Kelly oversaw and helped drive the agency’s brand strategy, communications planning, account management and media planning for clients that included Factory Motor Parts, HyVee and CITGO. At Crispin Porter Bogusky, she was strategy lead for VRBO and Domino’s and at Carmichael Lynch the Senior Partner and Head of Strategy for Subaru, Harley Davidson, Seventh Generation, Levolor, Rubbermaid and Jack Links. As a VP, Strategic Planner at Campbell Mithun she created the agency’s Youth & Family strategy practice, which was key for clients like Burger King, Popsicle, Xbox, St. Ives and General Mills. 


“Far from a gimmicky ‘strategery,’ the scientific depth and rigor of the agency’s Belief and Behavior Design approach resonated with me as it represents responsible marketing that is more than just noise,” Rowntree says. “It is grounded in Cactus’ decades of experience with clients that have a focus on behavior change for social and individual wellbeing. I am excited about activating it to solve brand challenges."

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