Fitzgerald Hires Top Media Exec

After four years’ overseeing the Home Depot account at Initiative Media, George Newi has joined Fitzgerald + Co. to run the agency’s media department.

Newi, 38, started at the Atlanta-based Interpublic Group shop last week as senior vice president, chief media officer. He reports to executive vice president and managing director Lisa Galanti.

Newi replaces John Padgett, who was let go earlier this month. Sources said the agency wanted a media director who would be more independent of the shop’s creative and account management teams.

Newi said he expects to add employees. The shop’s 12 media staffers now handle about $140 million in billings from clients including Aflac, Southern Co. and Srixon.

“The opportunity to come here and build a team is exciting,” Newi said. “We can use the ideas of a small shop and the tools and insights of a large media operation.”

The hiring is the latest of several high-level changes in the executive suite under president and CEO Dave Fitzgerald as the shop searches for a winning new-business formula. In May, Eddie Snyder rejoined the agency he worked at from 1990 to 1999 as executive creative director. Earlier this month, Paul Gilberto was promoted to president of The Brand Development Group, a new strategic marketing unit.

“We’ve all been operating under a fear mentality,” Fitzgerald said. “But as the market begins to improve and confidence grows, there will be clients searching. We’re going to be on the top of the list.”

At Initiative in Atlanta, Newi oversaw a staff of 18. A moderate do-it-yourselver, the Syracuse University graduate said he bought more merchandise than stock while handling Home Depot’s business.