Chicago Creative Lands at Grey L.A.

Five months ago, an out-of-work creative director from Chicago packed up his car, popped in Hank Williams Jr.’s Long Gone Daddy CD and headed to Los Angeles.

“Sometimes you have to bust a move,” said Bob Merlotti, 42, whose initial plan was to freelance or launch his own agency.

Instead, Merlotti starts today as evp and executive creative director at Grey, Los Angeles, after a headhunter’s call led to a breakfast with office president John Crosson.

“We had a really nice talk. I liked what he was doing with the agency, and he seemed very much like a straight shooter,” said Merlotti.

Merlotti, who reports to Crosson, is charged with boosting the creative reputation at the shop, whose clients include Pedigree Dog Food, the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Lottery.

Merlotti takes over leadership of the office’s creative product from chief creative officer Peter Mooney, who moves to an evp, creative director’s post that will have him doing more writing and working with other Grey offices, Crosson said.

A Midwest native, Merlotti began his career on the account side at DDB Chicago. Group creative director Dennis Ryan (now chief creative officer at Element 79 Partners) found Merlotti’s memos amusing and asked him to join the creative team.

Merlotti spent 11 years at DDB, where he created several Super Bowl spots for Bud Light and was credited with the 1997 “Did Somebody Say McDonald’s?” campaign.

Most recently, Merlotti was a senior partner, gcd at J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, having followed Ryan there. He was laid off last May.

After spending the summer freelancing, Merlotti headed West. “The idea was to go into a city with more image-based clients,” he said.