When Scott Mont gomery announced his departure from Foote, Cone & Belding Southern California last May, the T&O Group immediately began plotting ways to lure him into its fold, said executive vice president Monte Zator.
At the start of next year, the Irvine, Calif., shop gets its wish as Montgomery joins full time as executive vice president and executive creative director.
"He matches up to everything we were looking for," said Zator, who worked with Montgomery years ago at the former Cochrane Chase, Livingston & Co. "Creative people love working for him."
The move follows a series of overtures by T&O: several lunches and discussions; involvement in the pitch for the $5-10 million In-N-Out Burger account, which the shop won in July; and a freelance post that had Montgomery in the office working part time on the shop's various accounts.
"I fell in love with the place," said Montgomery, 51, who likened the environment to the early days of FCB Southern California predecessor Salvati Montgomery Sakoda, which he co-founded.
He said he has no problem with T&O's no-frills environment—there are no offices, elevators or personal assistants—and has found himself tackling kitchen duty. "I'm here doing everything with these people," he says.
Montgomery will oversee a six-person creative department and four-person studio. He replaces Gary Geyer, who left T&O about seven months ago. In the interim, freelancer Mike Pitts served as creative director.
T&O is hoping Montgomery can help it elbow its way into pitches for marquee clients, par ticularly those outside Orange County, and automotive accounts.
Montgomery had cited burnout as the reason he left his post as executive creative director at FCB in Irvine. "I knew I couldn't retire cold turkey," he said. "When it's fun, it's the most fun you can have."
Prior to taking the full-time post at T&O, Montgomery worked with former Lawrence, Mayo & Ponder principal and co-creative director Bruce Mayo on the Z Pizza and ACE duraflo accounts and teamed with a slew of other agencies to freelance for clients such as House2 Home, the California Avocado Commission, Frappuccino and the Long Beach Aquarium.
T&O, with 50 employees, claims $60 million in billings. Apart from In-N-Out, its clients include Fantastic Sam's, Sempra Energy and Uniglobe Travel.