LOS ANGELES With new executive creative directors Susan Hoffman and Mark Fitzloff in place, Wieden + Kennedy is looking for senior-level talent for them to lead at one of the nation’s top creative shops. “Bring your Gore-Tex,” said managing director Tom Blessington, only half joking about the outdoorsy hipsters who typically take to Oregon weather.
From the start, Dan Wieden and David Kennedy believed in the power of pairs, teaming creative leaders on brands-and lately atop the creative department. “Every individual has a strong voice here and doesn’t look like the person next to them,” says Fitzloff. “That means perspective and a learning experience.” That has been the case, he contends, when Wieden has “brought in superstars,” too.
To concentrate on global creative for his burgeoning worldwide network, Dan Wieden prepared the ground for the new pairs in 2006 by luring Blessington back to Portland after a stint at TBWA\Chiat\Day. A few months later, creative directors Steve Luker and Jelly Helm were paired atop the Portland office. They didn’t last long, stepping down from those roles last month. And though the agency has said they’d be placed elsewhere in the network (and, together with Jeff Williams, they did produce Nike’s Olympics campaign), sources said both were “exploring other options.” Luker and Helm declined to comment.
Luker, who came to the agency at 39 after starring on Hewlett-Packard at Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, made an immediate impact on Electronic Arts paired with Roger Camp, who has since left for Publicis & Hal Riney. Luker described himself then as “stubborn, difficult to work with” and “confrontational,” though he said the perception was worse than the reality. A source suggested Luker might not leave the Wieden network — just the friction of Portland, where creative directors Mike Folino and Mark Fenske recently left for another shop and academia, respectively, and Nike account leader Rebecca Van Dyck left for Apple.
Helm founded the in-house ad school W+K12 in 2004. When he rose to the creative leadership role, Hoffman stepped in on W+K12. Helm has now returned to W+K12, saying it’s “where I want to be. … I am thrilled to be back.”
The creative department now numbers about 100, with several openings. But it won’t be easy to add seasoned talent to the mix. Indeed, the stronger the creative culture, the harder it can be to fill top slots.
When David Lubars left Publicis Groupe’s Fallon for Omnicom’s BBDO in 2004, Fallon foundered, first hiring Paul Silburn from TBWA\London, then cd Kerry Feuerman from Leo Burnett. Neither lasted a year.
Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York has also had trouble casting atop its creative department, with most creative chiefs not lasting more than a year or two. The exception was Gerry Graf, who joined in late 2005 and left in February to become chief creative officer at Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. His successor, Mark Figliulo, is the office’s fifth creative chief in nine years.
On the flip side, BBDO’s switch from Ted Sann to Lubars as North American CCO has taken root. Goodby’s 2001 hire of Jamie Barrett as cd and associate partner also is seen as successful. Barrett, now a partner, had never worked at Goodby previously, but his experience at Wieden and Fallon made him a good fit.
“It’s not just a person’s portfolio, but the person,” said Susan Kirshenbaum of New York recruiting firm Greenberg Kirshenbaum, adding that Wieden’s brand remains “iconic” but enduring matches require that both sides understand each other’s direction. “Wieden is really good at hiring the right people for themselves,” Kirshenbaum said. “Usually when it doesn’t work out, the agency’s culture differed from the person’s style, and the parties didn’t reveal themselves.”
Wieden’s sexier brands like Coke and Nike now cohabitate with P&G packaged goods (though Fitzloff has made Old Spice fun). But Hoffman and Fitzloff say it’s old-fashioned to suggest those accounts might attract dissimilar talent. “People think it’s easy to work on Nike,” said Fitzloff. “But what we’ve learned is that provocative advertising is not sector specific.”
The tie that binds all clients is the agency’s drive to get inside their business heads. “We’re looking for people who have had success in finding interesting ways of managing external relationships [with clients],” Fitzloff says. “Gone are the days of sliding a piece of work across a table and saying take it or leave it. Clients demand more collaboration, for creatives to be more open, to speak their language, and not compromise the work while making it smarter.”
Hoffman, was employee No. 12 at Wieden, a partner by 1992, and helped open the Amsterdam and London offices. Still, this is a new level for her. “I don’t like to oversee people,” she said. “I like giving them freedom, which gives them more authority and autonomy over their own work, their own authorship.” Describing herself as “a bit of a bitch, in a good way,” she promises prospects the chance to do “provocative work with a unique perspective in a chaotic environment.” She wants nothing less than creative talent that will “shake up advertising again.” –with Andrew McMains