Bluegrass Shop Bets on Chicago

The Creative Alliance has boosted its commitment to the Chicago market, hiring Jennifer LeMay to the new position of executive creative officer and stationing her here with the directive to build business.

LeMay’s move to the Louisville, Ky.-based agency as its No. 2 creative was not unexpected. She follows Bob Welke, who hired her for her last two jobs and who took over as chief creative officer of CA in May.

LeMay followed Welke out of Euro RSCG Tatham last spring and took the summer off. She said she was drawn to CA by the opportunity to be on the ground floor of an office while playing a part in an effort to build a regional player into a national one.

“It’s like the best of both worlds,” LeMay said of joining an established shop while also having the chance to be “very entrepreneurial.”

CA currently has a subsidiary in Chicago called The January Group, which is staffed largely with former employees of the now defunct Lois/EJL. The shop’s main client is the Chicago area’s Kentucky Fried Chicken co-op, and it claims $20 million in billings. LeMay will work out of The January Group’s Michigan Avenue offices.

CA chief executive officer Debbie Scoppechio said she expects to have a full service office in Chicago under the agency’s main banner as soon as the end of the year. She said the ability to recruit talent was a key reason for wanting to be in the Chicago market.

LeMay first worked with Welke at Leo Burnett, then joined him at Tatham as an executive creative director. Welke left the top creative post at Tatham in March following a power struggle with president and CEO Gary Epstein. LeMay was among several creatives to follow him out the door. Larry Walters, another ECD, left Tatham last month and some observers expect him to join LeMay, his former partner, at CA.

Welke acknowledged that Chicago has been a tough market for outside agencies to break into, but said the native knowledge now at CA will eliminate pitfalls experienced by other startups.

“This is a homegrown operation,” Welke said. “[January Group President Jim] Signorelli, LeMay, myself—we all have the grassroots contacts for where the talent is. We have the business contacts.”