After helping repair DDB Needham Dallas' formerly poor creative reputation, Jim Ferguson is taking his career eastward and upward by assuming a top role at a New York agency.
Ferguson has accepted the position of president and chief creative officer at the $3.4 billion Young & Rubicam, where he will work on some of the nation's top brands, including AT&T, Citibank, Sears and Phillip Morris.
"Life is an adventure. I might as well live another adventure," the 44-year-old DDB Needham Dallas chief creative officer said. "Hopefully this is my last job. Ten, 12 good years--I would really enjoy that."
Ferguson expects to start at Y&R in mid-May. Whether that will be sufficient time to fill his shoes may depend on whether DDB and Omnicom choose to look outside the shop for his successor. Ferguson said no discussions have been held on the matter. Chief executive officer Jake Schroepfer could not be reached for comment last week on DDB's plans.
During a 16-year career, Ferguson, a copywriter and former sports writer, has created memorable ads for the likes of McDonald's ("Nothing But Net" and "Pee-Wee Football"), U.S. Department of Transportation ("Safety Belt Dummies") and McIlhenny's Tabasco sauce ("Mosquito"). In 1997, the latter spot won a Gold Lion at Cannes--the first time a Southwest agency captured the prestigious honor.
"I think we did it all. Any (goals) we laid out there, we met them," said Ferguson, who came to DDB in 1995 under then-chairman Mike Rawlings. "I feel extremely satisfied. It was a lot of hard work.
"I didn't really get bored. [But] I started thinking it might be fun to try it on a different level."
Handpicked by Y&R worldwide creative director Ted Bell--a former colleague and friend--and New York chief executive Peter Stringham, Ferguson fills a void that has existed for more than five years. Y&R's last creative chief here, Helayne Spivak, left in November 1993.
Ferguson's friendship with Bell dates back to 1984, when both were at Leo Burnett in Chicago. Ferguson left Burnett for DDB in 1995. Two years later, he was part of a multi-office DDB team that reclaimed McDonald's $600 million account from Burnett--the largest new business win in DDB history. Ferguson subsequently became interim executive creative director on the business.
Ferguson said he would not have left his home state of Texas if not for Bell. "It had to be somebody I trusted, somebody I knew," Ferguson said. "I don't think I would have tried it for anybody but Ted.
"I'm going to miss these guys, miss this place, miss my home."
--with Glen Fest