What began as a freelance assignment on Orbits.com has turned into a full-time gig. The team of Dallas Itzen and Patrick O'Neill has taken the creative reins of TBWA\Chiat\Day here, following the dismissal of chief creative officer David Page last week.
Itzen and O'Neill, who have been working to-gether since 1992, will share the title of executive creative director. They arrive as the $400 million agency awaits a decision in the review for Kmart's $100 million account, a seven-agency contest that they helped pitch.
Page, who held the top creative post since early last year, oversaw the development of campaigns for Absolut (20th anniversary), Circuit City ("Imagine that") and Koz-mo.com ("Want some happy? Kozmo it"). He was home recuperating from a water-skiing accident when he learned of losing his job, sources said. Page declined comment.
Asked to explain the reasoning behind the move, shop president Carl Johnson said, "I think we've produced a number of good signs of creative excellence on some of our business, but consistency isn't there." He added: "It's just a question of casting."
Itzen, a copywriter, and O'Neill, an art director, first met at Ogilvy & Mather in 1990 and became partners at Deutsch in New York, creating ads for the likes of Kohler and Ikea, including a 1994 spot that depicted a gay couple buying a table. O'Neill also was part of the team that created Mr. Jenkins for Tanqueray.
Since early 1994, they have free-lanced at an assortment of New York shops, including Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, DiNoto Lee and McCann-Erickson Worldwide. Their work on Orbits.com—a new travel site—is expected to break next year.
Discussing the shift to one shop, O'Neill, 35, said, "We both missed the excitement of being in a creatively driven agency." Itzen, 37, who cited the office's creative legacy, which includes the "Human Cartoons" campaign for the Nynex Yellow Pages, added: "We want to make this place famous for its advertising again."
As for their creative philosophy, O'Neill said, "I don't think you can do great advertising if you're not having fun doing it. … We're trying to really create an environment that is fun, with a lot of communication and not a lot of ego."
Separately, the shop has pro-moted executive group director Drew Beaver to director of client services, a new post. Beaver's client responsibilities include Orbits.com, Circuit City and The Seagram Co.