Well-Traveled Creative Director Drops Anchor In the Ocean State, Joins Rising RDW Group
BOSTON–It’s not London or Singapore, but Rhode Island has sailing that Tony Gill calls “the best in the world.” For someone who has lived on a sailboat for the past seven years, this became an important factor when deciding where to take a job.
Gill, most recently creative director with Bozell in Singapore, last week joined RDW Group in Providence, R.I., as executive creative director.
“I think you can end up working with the big job in the big city doing boring work,” Gill said. “You sometimes get to do better work in a smaller place on smaller accounts. I have the best of both worlds: I get paid reasonably well and have a lifestyle I want.”
With a son about to start school, Gill said the time was right to think about taking root, which includes purchasing a house in either Newport or Bristol, R.I.–the first land-based home his son will know. Gill’s wife has family in Connecticut, another plus for the area.
For the past three years, Gill has worked for clients such as the Development Bank of Singapore, Sara Lee and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Before joining Bozell, he worked at Euro RSCG in Sydney, Australia, and McCann-Erickson’s Hong Kong and Pakistan offices–all while living on his sailboat, La Chaumiere.
Before hopping on his boat seven years ago to head overseas, Gill worked in New York for Young & Rubicam on R.J. Reynolds, Ogilvy & Mather on Mercedes-Benz and Campbell-Mithun Esty on Mastercard.
Gill will oversee RDW’s 20-person creative department, which includes creative director Tom Rothermel, said RDW chairman Phil Rivers.
Rothermel, who has a background in art direction, shared the creative director title with Bob Murphy until July, when Murphy left to begin a freelance career, Rivers said.
“We had been looking for an executive creative director that had real in-depth experience leading a creative department,” said Rivers. “It was just one of those kismet things. He was what we needed, and we were what he needed. Tony is a world-class talent who brings enormous experience.”
“Before Tony’s been there too long, a lot more people will have heard of” RDW, said Susan McMurtry, a former colleague of Gill’s at Y&R and currently principal of Big Blue Fish in New York.
Gill was not surprised by the stellar sailing in Rhode Island but admitted he was surprised by his co-workers.
“I’m amazed at how good they are,” he said. “This is similar to the situation I had in Asia: good, young talent who didn’t need a hands-on creative director but needed someone to work with them and work the place up.”
When he’s not working on RDW accounts such as Amica Insurance and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Gill said he plans to sail on his friends’ boats until he can bring his own back to the U.S. next spring from Thailand, where it’s currently moored.
“I love the lifestyle here,” Gill exulted. “Manhattan was great in the 70s and 80s, but I wanted something outside Manhattan and didn’t really want to go to Boston.”
Gill predicts he’s not going to be alone in shunning life in the big cities.
“Good agencies are springing up in places that are nice to live,” he said, pointing to Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, Ore., and Mullen in Wenham, Mass. “It’s terrific. You can work almost anywhere, and I think that’s the way the future’s going to go. Why not work in a place that’s nice?”
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