McLean Hires ‘Grown-Up’ To Run N.Y. Creative Dept.

“Am I scaring you yet?” Gord McLean, Young & Rubicam North American CEO, had asked while recruiting Gary Goldsmith. He had just finished laying out some of the shop’s problems—client losses, management churn and a lack of cohesion—to his choice for chief creative officer of the New York office.

If Goldsmith was nervous, he wasn’t letting on. The former U.S. CCO at Lowe, who has a calm, measured demeanor, is not easily shaken. He’s also more seasoned than his predecessor, Matt Eastwood. But Goldsmith’s personality, creative style and pedrigee contrast sharply with those of Y&R’s hard-charging, global creative director, Michael Patti. The question some are asking: Will opposites get along?

Goldsmith, 51, is an art director known for elegant ads who honed his craft at DDB and has worked at smaller shops (Chiat/Day, Goldsmith/Jeffrey, Lowe). Patti, 52, is a writer who made his mark producing star-studded TV spots for another big global network: BBDO.

At Y&R, Goldsmith’s primary focus is to run the New York creative department, inspiring, nurturing and upgrading talent where necessary, said McLean, to whom he reports. Goldsmith also will play a leading role in new business efforts, alongside managing partner Mary Maroun.

In addition, Goldsmith, who starts today, will partner with McLean on broader, North American initiatives and on global projects, for existing or prospective clients. In that role, Goldsmith will report to Patti, and that, along with their contrasting styles and backgrounds, has led some staffers to wonder how, exactly, that will play out.

Goldsmith and Patti didn’t seem concerned last Thursday during an hour-long discussion of Goldsmith’s mission. In fact, the creative leaders expressed admiration for each other’s work and said that despite their differences, they share a passion for big ideas.

At Y&R, McLean expects the duo to work closely together and deliver significant results. “We’ve got to move our game here to a higher level,” said McLean. He also wants Goldsmith to make sure “we have one creative vision in New York moving forward [by] pulling everyone together here as a team.”

Filling the creative void in New York took only two months, which is in stark contrast to Y&R’s ongoing, nearly year-old search for a new worldwide CEO to succeed Ann Fudge, who remains CEO of Y&R Brands.

Some sources expect the process to extend into next year and believe it may not be finished until the spring, when Fudge’s contract is set to expire. Among the options parent WPP Group is said to be mulling is the return of Jim Kelly, the former joint CEO of Y&R’s London office, either on his own or in tandem with former partner M.T. Rainey, said sources. Kelly and Rainey, who both left Y&R London early this year, could not be reached; WPP declined comment.

The move to Y&R represents a fresh start for Goldsmith at a big global network. Goldsmith, who spent nine years at Lowe, was replaced in April by Mark Wnek, former creative chief at Havas’ Euro RSCG in London.

Historically, Y&R has been known as an agency driven by suits, with serviceable but unspectacular work. “Y&R is one of the great brands. To help rebuild and redefine that—that’s a once-in-a-lifetime challenge,” Goldsmith said. Added Patti: “Advertising is a team sport. The more you can strengthen the team here is good.”

McLean, who introduced Goldsmith to about 20 top New York executives on Friday morning, felt from his first meeting with Goldsmith about seven weeks ago that he had found a “grown-up” who understood the issues facing Y&R and had the fortitude to tackle them.