Erwin Penland has made its first big staffing move since the November announcement that CMO Joe Saracino would replace outgoing ceo Joe Erwin by hiring Martin Agency veteran Mike Lear as its newest executive creative director.
Lear officially joined the agency late last year, and in the new role he will help lead creative and strategy for clients including Denny's and L.L.Bean while playing a crucial part in all new business efforts.
He will also work closely with chief creative officer Con Williamson, who tells Adweek, "We met in New York while working on Microsoft's Cortana launch in the summer of 2014, and I really sparked with him right away."
"I'm going to jump in wherever I'm needed [at Erwin Penland]," Lear says, adding, "I don't want to stop writing, and it's great to be able to do that while working with younger creatives that we want to help nurture."
Lear heads to the Greenville, S.C.-based IPG shop after spending more than 11 years with Martin, where he held the svp/creative director title. During his time there, he worked on some of the agency's biggest accounts including Geico, UPS and NASCAR while managing the SiriusXM, Midas, The Smithsonian and The Onion business.
Prior to joining Martin, Lear spent two years with Crispin, Porter + Bogusky Miami, where he worked on MINI, IKEA, Google and Virgin Atlantic. He has also been an instructor at Atlanta's Creative Circus, and he served as an adjunct professor at Richmond's VCU Brandcenter for more than a decade.
The hiring news marks the latest step in a comeback of sorts for Erwin Penland after Verizon ended its longtime relationship with the agency in late 2015 and shifted most of its sponsorship/entertainment business to fellow IPG shop Momentum Worldwide.
"We're building something at EP," Williamson says. "I would almost call it a startup. The best part is, new business is calling." He goes on to praise Lear's "Swiss Army Knife" approach to advertising, noting, "There's no role for a ceremonial creative director anymore, and he can lead by example … It feels like Mike's been working with us for years. He's home. He already has one pitch under his belt."
Lear tells Adweek, "The system for strong creative work is in place and we have an incredibly strong team. Not to mention, everyone at Erwin Penland says 'yes,' so now we have to continue to hold ourselves to higher and higher standards."