Carl Warner got his chance to run a shop without leaving the JWT network last month when he moved from its Detroit office to its Atlanta one.
Warner, 43, is now co-president and executive creative director of the WPP Group's Atlanta shop. He shares the top post with Tony Accurso, 45, who also carries the general manager title. Accurso became general manager of the shop late last year following the death of Jeff White, who had run the shop for the past 19 years. Before that, Accurso supervised the shop's account with 11 regional Ford dealers. Combined, those dealers comprise the shop's largest account with about $180 million in annual spending.
The move divides the top position between a creative director and an account manager who have equal authority over the shop. It's part of a deliberate strategy, Accurso said.
"If the work is going to get better, then the creative has to be elevated," he said. "This is a way to do that."
For Warner, moving to Atlanta is a return to his Southern past. The Dallas native graduated from East Texas State University in 1985 and landed his first job at The Richards Group in Dallas as an art director. He also spent seven years as a group creative director at DDB in Dallas before moving to Detroit to join JWT in 2003.
Overall, Warner has logged more than 20 years in the ad business. He spent the last three as a creative director on the Ford account at JWT Detroit. In the past two years, he has supervised the launch of seven new Ford models, including the GT and Fusion.
Despite the common link to Ford, Accurso and Warner had not met until three months ago, about halfway through the search to replace executive creative director Scott Nelson. They instantly connected, both said.
Accurso said he liked Warner's experience with Ford and the toughness that handling such an account develops.
"He will stand up for the work and not settle for what a client thinks he needs," Accurso said. "That's not always the easiest thing to do."