Ferguson Exits DDB for Y&R




Appointment Fills a 5-Year Vacancy Created by Spivak
NEW YORK–After years of cajoling, Jim Ferguson, chief creative officer at DDB Needham in Dallas, is coming to New York. Ferguson, 44, has accepted the post of president, chief creative officer at Young & Rubicam here. He gave notice last week and expects to start in mid-May.
“Life is an adventure. I might as well live another adventure,” Ferguson said. “Hopefully this is my last job. Ten, 12 good years–I would really enjoy that.”
Selected by worldwide creative director Ted Bell–a friend and former colleague–and New York chief executive Peter Stringham, Ferguson fills a five-year void. Y&R’s last creative chief here, Helayne Spivak, left in November 1993.
Since then, Bell has handled both global and New York duties. He had approached several people about the job, among them Lee Garfinkel of Lowe & Partners/ SMS and Steve Hayden, now at Ogilvy & Mather.
During his 16-year career, Ferguson, a copywriter and former sports writer, has created ads for McDonald’s (“Nothing But Net,” “Pee-Wee Football”), the U.S. Department of Transportation (“Safety Belt Dummies”) and McIlhenny’s Tabasco (“Mosquito”). The latter won a Gold Lion at Cannes in 1997.
His mission at Y&R–where in the past year, billings have grown 32 percent and ads for Molson and Pella Windows have won Clios– is to “continue the momentum that we’ve got,” said Bell. “Also, I want him to raise the bar I want to be the most creative big agency.”
Among Ferguson’s first tasks: get to know the staff and its work. He applauds Y&R’s storytelling approach with AT&T, the humor of its Diet Dr. Pepper ads and its tack with KFC (“I like the little animated guy”). But he questions campaigns for 7-Up (“It seems a little busy”) and Xerox (“I don’t quite understand it”).
As for Ferguson’s new president’s title, Stringham said: “You have to elevate creative and give the guy the position, the power and the stature” to do the job.
Ferguson’s friendship with Bell dates to 1984, when both worked at Leo Burnett in Chicago. Ferguson left in 1995, two years later he was part of the DDB team that reclaimed McDonald’s $600 million account from Burnett. Ferguson’s executive creative director duties on that business were recently shifted to DDB group creative director John Staffen.
Bell’s on-again, off-again search restarted last October, after Stringham, who is also CEO of Y&R North America, took the reins in New York. The pair interviewed four candidates, including one from London.
Ferguson said it wasn’t an easy decision to leave his Texas home. “I don’t think I would have tried it for anybody but Ted.”