Naming Nel Leads to Top-Level Changes at 2 Atlanta Agencies
ATLANTA–Tech branding specialists Donino, White & Partners made its long-rumored, high-profile hire last week, tapping Andrƒ Nel as executive creative director.
Nel joins the Atlanta agency from crosstown competitor Pollak, Levitt & Nel, where he had been chief creative officer since 1997. That shop immediately pulled his name off the door and said it was changing its shingle to Pollak Levitt & Partners. Following Nel’s resignation, agency chief executive Jim Pollak said associate creative directors Brad Ramsey and Jeff Cole would be elevated to co-creative directors.
In announcing Nel’s hire, DW&P president and chief executive Frank Donino confirmed that the shop’s current executive creative director, Dick Briner, is taking a leave of absence for health reasons.
“Dick has what started as lung cancer and has spread to his chest area,” Donino said. “He has been working with us as he’s fought this, but his job now is to go through treatments and fight this disease and not worry about what he has to do at work here. He will continue to be paid . . . He will always have a job here. We look forward to welcoming him back when the time is right for him.”
Nel said that despite PL&N losing its signature telcom client Powertel last year, he had not been looking for a job. He said he became “intrigued” after being contacted by DW&P, which he described as “riding a rocketship.” Donino has added nearly $100 million in billings since this time last year. It now hovers around the $150 million mark.
“There’s a new paradigm and it’s changing everything from the way we think to the way we live and work,” said Nel, who starts at his new agency Feb. 28. “As creatives, we need to take off our blinders and focus on that reality. [Some] clients and [some] agencies are clearly caught up in the old paradigm, [but DW&P] is demonstrating the future of where our business is going. You must change the paradigm of how you communicate.”
A native of South Africa, Nel was a creative director at The Richards Group in Dallas. He also worked in the creative departments at Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, and at BBDO and D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, both New York. He has worked with clients like American Airlines, NationsBank, Pizza Hut, Budweiser and HBO.
Nel, 44, joined PL&N with much fanfare. Though he was the driving force behind an extensive broadcast effort for Powertel, less than three months later the account was lost in a review. Before Nel left the agency, sources inside PL&N groused about his reluctance to delegate and his conservative style.
A more conservative bent, however, is what Nel’s new agency suggests should be used in the branding and selling of high-tech clients.
“We’re not here to shoot gerbils out of cannons or do the things that failed miserably in the Super Bowl,” said DW&P executive vice president and director of account services Ridge White. “We need to build a brand that succeeds, not just make a lot of noise. People have been using a shotgun instead of a brush.”
Now that the agency’s creative department has been stabilized, Donino said his shop’s next move will be “to build a presence on the West Coast [through] acquisition. We want to go after those accounts, and so far, we’ve been unable to do that. We’re looking [to buy] someone who can provide integrated services and mirrors our vision as brand builders.”
Nel’s departure provides opportunity for Ramsey, an art director, and Cole, a writer, to energize PL&P. The two first teamed up at The Joey Reiman Agency before moving together to WestWayne. While at the latter, they ran the creative side of the NAPA account. They joined Pollak in 1997.
“We’re doing the kind of restructuring that will get us where we want to go faster,” Pollak said. “The creative vision of Brad and Jeff is a critically important piece of our future . . . I’ve already told them that they’ve got me so pumped I may put off my retirement for another five years.”
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