Last fall, Leo Burnett creative director Mike Valenti compiled a list of qualities he believed would add up to a perfect job. Among his criteria was a smaller shop in a warmer climate.
The 45-year-old art director found what he was after at independent shop Cooper & Hayes in Coral Gables, Fla., where he becomes executive creative director, the top creative post, starting April 15. He replaces Troy Hayes, who left last June to move closer to his family in Cincinnati, said CEO Ric Cooper. The agency claims $150 million in billings from clients such as the Florida Lottery and Carnival Cruise Lines.
A 15-year veteran of Publicis Groupe's Burnett in Chicago, Valenti—who found his new job through a headhunter—has worked on accounts such as McDonald's, Hallmark, Disney and, most recently, Allstate. The latest Allstate work from Valenti and his partner, Jeannie Caggiano, featuring actor Dennis Haysbert, is what caught Cooper's eye. "I had been noticing that new campaign before I met Mike and tried to find out who did it, because … they've done a fantastic job," Cooper said.
At Burnett, Caggiano, a cd, and ecd Tim Pontarelli will continue to oversee Allstate's creative.
Though untested in the top role at an agency, Valenti, a graduate of Vesper George School of Art in Boston, has led creative groups at Burnett that are about the size of Cooper & Hayes' 20-person creative department. "I think my experience will translate," he said. "All creative people need a problem to solve, and you need to listen to their solutions."
Outside of work, Valenti, a father of two teenage children, has been known to ride his bicycle for long stretches in the Chicago suburbs, which he said helps him clear his head. "You need the space between work and life," he said.