JWT Hires Fallon Vet to Lead Diageo

Spirits and sports are traditional ad partners, and the link has led Fallon New York group account director Michael Haje to join J. Walter Thompson’s Gotham office. He begins next Monday in the position of senior partner, director in charge of Diageo’s $70 million account in the U.S.

At Fallon, Haje, 40, oversaw such brands as Sports Illustrated and ABC Sports, which share the same generally male audience as most spirits. At JWT, he replaces Peter Grossman, who was promoted to global business director on Cadbury, said Howard Portrate, the agency’s evp, worldwide director in charge. Haje reports to Portrate.

Haje will oversee a staff of 10 and be responsible for all domestic Diageo work, including brands such as Smirnoff, Smirnoff Twist, Smirnoff Ice, Smirnoff Ice Triple Black and Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Portrate had been in talks with Haje about the position for months. “He’s a creative-thinking suit,” Portrate said. “He never put on a show and just talked about advertising.”

Haje said he was drawn to the opportunity to do work for a large client like Diageo and has also been intrigued with JWT since Bob Jeffrey, its North American president, began turning the agency around in 1999. The two knew each other when Jeffrey was at Lowe in San Francisco and Haje was at Publicis & Hal Riney. “We met for lunch in 1999 when I came back to New York, and I kept an eye on him ever since,” Haje said.

A former fundraising director for various environmental advocacy groups, with a degree in political science, Haje got his taste for advertising from his godmother, who worked in the business. “She was the only adult where I understood what she did,” he said. “I come from a family of lawyers.”