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Ogilvy Loses Creative Firebrand

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NEW YORK -- During his 29 years in advertising, Rick Boyko, the creative star whom many credit with revitalizing Ogilvy & Mather, has generated intense passion in almost anyone who has come within his orbit. He is "the type you either love or hate," said one source.

"Rick embodies David Ogilvy's 'divine discontent,' and you would find that Rick could respect anyone who did good work," said Shelly Lazarus, Ogilvy & Mather president and CEO. "He has no tolerance for anyone who doesn't care as much as he does about the work."

Now, at age 54, Boyko is set to launch a new career, in education. The chief creative officer of Ogilvy North America and co-president of the agency's New York office revealed last week that he will take the post of managing director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Adcenter next June.

"I'd promised myself that at 55, I would get out of the business," Boyko said. "I didn't want to get to the stage when someone holds a gun to your head and says, 'It's time to go.' "

Age notwithstanding, some disconcerting moments recently may have convinced Boyko that now was the time. In February, he lost some responsibility on American Express when the client requested that former Ogilvy cd Gordon Bowen, who helped craft the award-winning "Portraits" campaign, be brought back to do a project.

And according to some sources, there is tension between Boyko and Steve Hayden, Ogilvy worldwide vice chairman, because Boyko felt passed over for Hayden's position. Other sources said Hayden feels Boyko has taken too much credit for the success of the $300 million IBM account, Hayden's main responsibility. Boyko declined to comment.

Boyko was key in Ogilvy's winning back the $230 million American Express account, which went to Chiat/Day in 1991 and back to Ogilvy a year later. It was that loss that opened the door for Boyko and creative director Bill Hamilton to change the way Ogilvy worked, Boyko said.

"When [Amex] happened, it was like a bolt of lightning, and it allowed us to change how we acted as an agency," he said.

The shop had been a "9 to 5 sort of place" with an ossified bureaucratic structure, Boyko said. One major change the team made was to eliminate a layer of executive creative directors between them and the group directors.

"Rick helped bring back the spirit of David Ogilvy, in terms of pursuing different ideas and trying things out," said Bill Gray, who for the past five years has shared the co-president title with Boyko at the $1.5 billion New York office.

Boyko formed a design unit, the Brand Integration Group, in 1999, and launched The Syndicate, a network of independent creative agencies aligned with Ogilvy, in 1998.

Boyko began his career in 1973 as an art director at Chicago's Leo Burnett and spent the next decade at Windy City shops. It was at Chiat/Day in Los Angeles that he teamed with Hamilton, and the two did award-winning work for Mitsubishi Electric, Nike, Reebok and Pizza Hut.

The pair moved to Chiat's New York office in the mid-'80s and left for Ogilvy in 1989. At the time, the shop was mired in a new-business and creative slump. Boyko "really turned Ogilvy around," said Bob Kuperman, DDB New York president, who worked with Boyko at Chiat.

Boyko was named global chief creative officer in 1991. He took the creative lead on accounts including Dove soap, Hershey and Surf detergent, brands that gave him some of his best career moments. Among the work he's most proud of is Surf, along with Kodak and American Express.

Boyko kept Kodak, a conservative advertiser, from seeming "quaint," said Carl Gustin, chief marketing officer at the $150 million Ogilvy client. "[He] has gotten us to take intelligent risks with our advertising."

Gray, 50, will assume sole management of the New York office. Executive cds David Apicella, 47, and Chris Wall, 46, will become co-creative heads of Ogilvy New York.

As to his firebrand reputation, Boyko said, "I do challenge people to challenge themselves. I don't let up."