Back in high school, Richard Ward knew that he wanted to work in advertising.
"I was attracted to the idea of creatively and persuasively selling products," Ward said. "I was fascinated by the strategy behind it."
His 30-year career has included top management positions in the traditional advertising business and digital marketing, which gave him skills that helped land his new gig as CEO of WestWayne, an independent Atlanta shop with nearly $500 million in annual billings.
"My desire is to bring the best practices of the digital space to the traditional agency," the 50-year-old Ward said.
Ben West, chairman of the shop, said that philosophy put Ward ahead of the other finalists in his six-month search to replace Jeff Johnson, who left in August.
"We know how important the digital space has become, and we wanted someone with experience in it," West said. "Richard appears to be the ideal person to do that."
After graduating from the University of Oregon with a major in marketing and a minor in journalism, Ward joined the San Francisco office of Foote Cone & Belding in 1977 as an assistant media buyer. He moved up to account management and eventually became director of the department. In 1990, he was named managing director of the shop.
He left FCB in 1995 to join Infoseek, then a fledgling Internet search engine. He ran worldwide ad sales for the company for a year before leaving to join AOL as vice president of business development. He left six years later to be an Internet marketing consultant to nonprofits and companies including eBay.
He left his consulting work in San Francisco to join WestWayne. He said he was lured by the opportunity to return to advertising.
"I missed the energy of the advertising world," he said. "This completes the full circle for me."
West describes the future of his agency under Ward as "WestWayne 7.0."