Watt, Nelson Come Aboard to Help Agency Reach Next Level
BOSTON--Toth Brand Imaging has named Amy Watt creative director and tapped Paul Nelson as a group account director in its effort to move beyond its roots as a fashion specialty shop and assert itself on the national scene.
"We're hiring strong strategic people that have great taste, a great sense of design and thoughtfulness," said Michael Toth, who founded the agency in 1982 and serves as its president and executive creative director.
The hires are part of the agency's plan to diversify and grow, according to Toth and his chief operating officer, Dick Emerson.
While the Concord, Mass., shop is well-known for its work with high-profile fashion brands Nautica, Wrangler and former client Tommy Hilfiger, momentum has stalled of late, with billings and revenue each creeping up less than 3 percent last year to $61 million and $7.7 million, respectively.
Emerson, who joined Toth in August from Arnold Communications, Boston, has been developing a plan to expand the agency's focus to include broader lifestyle clients, such as recent additions Indian Motorcycle and RustRidge Vineyard.
In hiring Watt and Nelson, neither of whom receive a stake in the shop, Toth adds a pair of executives with track records for helping to build large, diverse brands.
Watt spent the past 16 years at Mullen, Wenham, Mass., where she worked on many of its showcase accounts and played a role in establishing the agency as a force on the national creative scene.
Most recently, as a group creative director, she contributed to the high-profile launch of women's cable and Internet channel Oxygen Media.
Emerson cited Watt's creative rƒsumƒ and her ability to build client businesses as the reasons he brought her aboard.
Watt's decision to join Toth, which employs 50 staffers overall, was driven by the desire to help a smaller agency grow, she said.
Changes at Mullen since its 1999 acquisition by the Interpublic Group of Cos. haven't sat well with Watt, sources said. The atmosphere at the agency, which claims about $400 million in annual billings, has become increasingly corporate and less entrepreneurial, and a flurry of comings and goings among the creative staff has increased friction, according to agency insiders.
Watt, however, insisted that such factors played no role in her decision to leave. "It's a great company with a lot of wonderful people," she said of Mullen.
At Toth, Watt becomes one of two executives with the title of creative director. The other, Joanne Reeves, oversees design work at the agency, while Watt will concentrate on advertising. She will have hands-on responsibility for Stride Rite and Wrangler. Watt and Reeves both report to Toth, who is currently seeking a creative director for the agency's 11-person office in New York.
"Companies change; and when you get bigger, some people embrace new management, while others say they want to go back to doing what they want," said Mullen creative director Edward Boches, who said he has no plan to specifically replace Watt.
Industry consultant Skip Pile in Boston called Watt a creative "superstar" whose reputation alone may prove invaluable as Toth presses ahead.
Nelson spent nearly four years at Arnold, where he rose to vice president and management supervisor on the agency's flagship Volkswagen business. He was viewed as a rising star, guiding virtually all regional work for VW.
Nelson will now run several of Toth's largest accounts, including Indian Motorcycle, Reunion, Union Bay and Wrangler. "Would we be able to give him that kind of responsibility in our system? Probably not," said Arnold chief marketing officer Fran Kelly. Bill McMullen, who helmed Arnold's office in Toronto, has taken over in Boston for Nelson, Kelly said.
"Dick [Emerson] and Mike [Toth] have a vision for how this place will grow, and it's something I wanted to be part of," Nelson said. Bob Fouhy, the other group account director, oversees accounts such as Nautica, Keds and Stride Rite. K