Wnek Fills No. 2 Position With Three Creatives

Mark Wnek, in his biggest personnel move since taking the reins of Lowe’s New York creative department in June, has filled his No. 2 post of executive creative director with three creatives who, collectively, represent both traditional and new approaches to building brands.

Joining as co-ecds are the creative director team of copywriter Peter Rosch and art director John Hobbs from Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Fernanda Romano, a former interactive creative director at DM9DDB in São Paolo, Brazil. Rosch, 32, and Hobbs, 38, are known for their TV and print work for Axe, Levi’s and Rolling Stone, while Romano, 30, was a cd on a viral campaign for Henkel’s Super Bonder that won the 2005 Cyber Lion Grand Prix at Cannes.

“This is completely in keeping with [global CEO] Tony Wright’s worldwide vision,” said Wnek. “We talk about the new Lowe. Well, this is the strongest and most unequivocal statement about the new Lowe that I’m ever going to make.”

The ecds, who report to Wnek, will function as the day-to-day managers of the shop’s 61-person creative department, overseeing a layer of group creative heads and contributing to new business efforts. Lowe’s clients include General Motors, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Macy’s and Milk PEP/Milk DMI.

The group has its work cut out for it. Interpublic Group’s Lowe, historically seen as a creatively driven agency, has in recent years lost some luster, due chiefly to client defections—including creative platforms such as Mercedes, Heineken and Sprite—but also to management churn at the top.

In October, IPG replaced worldwide CEO Jerry Judge with Wright, and in April, Wright named Wnek, a former top exec at Euro RSCG in London, to replace longtime U.S. chairman and CCO Gary Goldsmith.

Wnek, 45, arrived in June and almost immediately started restructuring the place. In July, Goldsmith’s longtime creative ally and ecd, Dean Hacohen, left abruptly but not unexpectedly. And last month, Wnek recruited JWT copywriter Brian Friedrich to become the 10th group creative head at Lowe, overseeing creatives on Unilever’s Degree business.

While he didn’t set out to hire three execs to fill the ecd role, Wnek did want at least two, including one experienced in interactive advertising. He hopes that the traditional creative team of Rosch and Hobbs will meld with Romano, the interactive cd, and therefore set an example for the rest of the department. “I want them to teach her and her to teach them, and I think what you’ll get is going to be interesting. ‘Radical’ is the word I keep using,” Wnek said.

The newcomers said they were attracted by Wnek’s enthusiasm and the challenge of stepping up to broader roles at a larger shop.

BBH’s creative department, with 23 people, is roughly a third the size of Lowe’s, and Omnicom Group’s DM9DDB has around 40 creatives. “It is a big undertaking, but we’re up for it,” said Hobbs. Added Romano, who is entering the U.S. market for the first time: “I feel like I’m joining the NBA. And that’s a major opportunity.”

Rosch embraced the chance to lead as well as create work. “We’ll be right there with it. It’s doing whatever it takes to get it done,” he said. Continuing the thought, Hobbs said he plans to be “really approachable and part of the team.”