Bozell last week fired group creative director Rich Levy after the New York shop learned he had suggested to Verizon Wireless that the account be shifted to IPG sibling Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, sources said.
Levy and Hill, Holliday's chief integration officer Laurel Rossi recently proposed the idea at a meeting with Verizon Wireless' vp of marketing, John Stratton, and vp of advertising, Marvin Davis, who both rejected the overture.
Stratton in turn alerted Bozell president Tom Ber nardin, who, with the client's approval, dismissed Levy, sources said.
Levy, who had become unhappy at Bozell, and Rossi, who was trying to secure more Verizon business for Hill, Holliday, floated the plan with out the knowledge of senior management, including IPG vice chairman David Bell, sources said.
Sources said Levy overestimated his clout with the client. "It comes down to ego and individual greed," said one source. "It happens when people believe their own press. [Levy] made a monumental, stupid move, and it cost him his job."
Without confirming the scenario, Levy told Adweek on Friday, "I feel I had an inappropriate conversation with the client. I admitted my mistake to Bozell management. For that I was fired." He declined to elaborate.
"It was an internal matter that was appropriately resolved," said Bernardin, who declined further com ment on the nature of Levy's departure.
Hill, Holliday, which handles some regional advertising for Verizon Wire less, has been angling for portions of the national account for some time. During the past year, Stratton is said to have had the Boston shop in for presentations on the national business. "Bozell has had to work hard to defend the account," a source said. A Hill, Holliday representative declined comment on Verizon Wireless. Rossi has been reassigned, tasked with "identifying trends and developing new products to meet emerging client needs," the shop said in a prepared statement. She could not be reached.
Hill, Holliday also said it has trans ferred Nancy Hill, president of its San Francisco outpost, to New York, where she will hold the title of managing director, overseeing Verizon Wireless. Brian Carty has re joined Hill, Holliday as evp; he will lead corporate development across the agency network.
The dismissal of Levy, who was largely responsible for Verizon's "Test Man" commercial character, comes at a critical time in the campaign's life cycle. New work is due to break in September, and it's unclear who will take the creative reins following Levy's exit. The account has billings of $235 million at Bozell. The client did not return calls.
Hill, Holliday first worked with Verizon Wireless two years ago, when its New York office won the client's $50 million Northeast retail account, which had been with Bozell. Hill, Holliday later picked up duties for several mid-Atlantic markets.
Verizon Wireless is believed to be the largest single account for Hill, Holliday's New York outpost, and sources said it is common knowledge inside the shop that senior management has been anxious to add to the business.