In 1993, Jay Chiat hired Michael Houston sight unseen—without benefit of a résumé or a portfolio. Instead, the decision was based on a passionate letter from the disgruntled journalism major and a 20-minute phone call.
The letter explained to Chiat why Houston thought advertising was worthwhile, despite what his University of Kansas professors were telling him. Houston was recovering from a tonsillectomy when Chiat first called his home, but when the two connected three days later, the ad legend offered him an internship in Chiat/Day's New York office. That internship turned into a full-time job.
"He said, 'I like the way you think; why don't you come to New York and knock around for a while?' " recalled Houston, recently promoted to the new post of director of corporate branding at Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners.
Houston, 31, will seek to identify the network's units more closely with the Kirshenbaum brand and lead its five-person business-development department. The agency had not had a business-development department for more than three years; instead, senior execs at each unit handled their respective new-business duties.
The New York-based independent had a good new-business year in 2003. Wins included Jergens' $95 million creative business and Brown & Williamson's media account ($50 million).
"We're targeting brands that have a history of doing good advertising," said co-chairman Jonathan Bond. "We call them 'Medici' clients. You've got to have a sponsor if you want to paint the Sistine chapel."
Houston joined Kirshenbaum's The Media Kitchen in October 2002 as director of new business. Before that, he was director of client rela- tions at Elias Arts, a music and sound-design company in New York.