LOS ANGELES If not for the leadership of the president of Omnicom's TBWA\Chiat\Day, the agency picture in Southern California would be decidedly less rosy, said board members of the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association. That was one of the reasons they cited for naming Robert LePlae the organization's Leader of the Year.
LePlae, 44, will be honored at the LAAAA's annual event at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 24.
"I'm very happy for him, and the fact that he owes me his life is immaterial," joked Larry Postaer, director of creative services at RPA, Santa Monica, Calif. "Actually, he, like a lot of us, has very humble beginnings." LePlae began his career in the mailroom of the former Ross Roy in Detroit and later as a junior account director joined Rubin Postaer and Associates, where he worked on Honda for 10 years.
LePlae joined TBWA\C\D as a group account director in 1998, and after a stint in Toyko at GI Worldwide, a joint venture between TBWA and Hakuhodo, was named president of Chiat's flagship Playa del Rey, Calif., office in 2001. Since then, the agency has steadily increased both its billings and its revenue. In the past year, the shop added Mars, Sara Lee and more Shell Chemical brands, as well as Limited Too and Anheuser-Busch assignments. The existing accounts of Nissan/Infiniti, Apple and Sony PlayStation also increased business.
"I try to maintain the virtuous cycle and avoid the vicious cycle," said LePlae, explaining the success of the agency in an era of less than stellar regional growth. "In the vicious cycle, you pitch everything, try to get more coming in the front door than going out the back. That's expensive and demoralizing. In the virtuous cycle, you keep your clients, do good work, attract good talent and new business prospects, and be selective about what you pitch. That's good for morale and cost effective."
"Among all the submissions, Robert clearly stood out after the year [Chiat] had," said Colleen Kelly, LAAAA president and a partner and media director at Interpublic Group's Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif. "And he's distinguished himself as a leader by the ideas he's put into place. Now that he's come back to town, we expect him to get more involved in the community."
"Having been involved in the decision, I can say it was an easy one, unanimous, and one of the quickest nominations we've ever had," said Neal Grossman, an LAAAA board member and Chiat's chief operating officer. "Obviously, we are thrilled that it's one of our own."
"Robert was the obvious choice for a number of reasons," said Rick Carpenter, a board member and president of Omnicom's DDB, Los Angeles. "Over the past year, they've enjoyed success in the market and retained key clients. Robert's leadership was instrumental to bringing in new business from outside of California. All this positive direction helps both his agency and the local market, which benefits from the fact that he's running the headquarters of a global agency here in Los Angeles."