Con Williamson has become a bigger player at a smaller agency.
The outgoing creative chief at the New York headquarters of Saatchi & Saatchi is the new chief creative officer of Erwin Penland, a unit of Interpublic Group's Hill Holliday. He'll be based in New York and work across business in both New York and the agency's home office of Greenville, S.C.
As CCO, Williamson succeeds the Greenville-based Andy Mendelsohn, who is leaving the shop after more than a decade.
At Saatchi, where he spent about three and a half years, Williamson led a department of about 85 at a global agency that employs about 325 in New York. At Erwin Penland, a domestic player, Williamson will oversee about 30 creative staffers in New York and another 95 or so in Greenville. Total headcount in New York is roughly 75, and in Greenville, about 285.
Erwin Penland's largest accounts are Verizon—for which the agency handles regional retail marketing—Denny's, Michelin's Uniroyal, Advance America and L'eggs. Saatchi's top three global clients are Procter & Gamble, Toyota and General Mills.
Also leaving Saatchi for Erwin Penland is John Dunleavy, a managing director on Saatchi's Miller business, and John Cornette, an executive creative director on Lenovo. At their new agency, Dunleavy assumes the dual roles of managing director and director of account management and Cornette becomes an ecd, or key lieutenant, under Williamson. Dunleavy inherits the account management role from Allen Bosworth, who'll now focus entirely on his primary job as COO.
The hires come two years after the Greenville, S.C.-based Erwin Penland entered the New York market. The agency shares space and back office services with the larger Boston-based Hill Holliday, which acquired Erwin Penland back in 2004.
Erwin Penland president Joe Erwin described the hires as an "investment for the whole agency," which he said came after a lengthy recruitment push of about eight months. With these additions, he predicted, "There's going to be strong upward growth for the agency and a lot of that probably will be in New York."
For Williamson, Erwin Penland represents an entrepreneurial opportunity to shape an agency. "This is as close as you can get to running your own shop," he explained.
At the same time, Williamson described his years at Saatchi as the "greatest opportunity I've ever had," acknowledging that "it's a much bigger place. It's a much bigger network." Ah, but what if you had a chance to mold a smaller shop? That, in a nutshell, was what brought Williamson, Dunleavy and Cornette to Erwin Penland.