McIlwain to Guide Chicago Amid Y&R Turbulence

As the new head of a fairly stable office within the troubled Young & Rubicam empire, Kary McIlwain has no plans for major change at Y&R Chicago.

“The ship is pointed in the right direction, toward growth, and keeping good people,” said McIlwain, who last week was named president and chief operating officer of Y&R Chicago.

McIlwain takes over from Howard Breen, who was named the Chicago shop’s chairman and director of mergers and acquisitions for Y&R North America.

Breen, an Ontario native who headed up Y&R’s Canadian operations before coming to the Chicago office as president in 1999, will remain in Chicago.

McIlwain is a 12-year veteran of the agency and was Y&R’s executive vice president and managing director. She will continue to report to Breen and will retain her role as senior manager on the shop’s cornerstone Sears Roebuck & Co account. The shop’s other clients include Jim Beam and Norwegian Cruise Line.

McIlwain will continue her predecessor’s goal of new business growth and of boosting the shop’s creative product. “The key is to bring in the right kind of business that will make our creative talent shine,” McIlwain said.

She also said she must work to maintain employee morale and client relationships as Y&R’s New York headquarters continues to struggle. “It can make it harder for the little Y&R to rise above the clutter,” she said.

McIlwain spent five years at Y&R’s New York office, starting out as an account executive on Johnson & Johnson baby products. She moved to the Chicago shop in 1994 to head up the Sears account.

Earlier, McIlWain had a stint at Bates, N.Y., working on M&M Mars.