BMW Creative Leader Leaves Grey

LOS ANGELES Bob Merlotti, creative leader on BMW’s $30 million Western regional account, has tendered his resignation as executive creative director and executive vice president of WPP Group’s Grey here, according to sources.

BMW declined comment. Merlotti was unavailable for comment, and Betsy Sperry, recently appointed to oversee the agency’s West Coast offices as managing director of Grey San Francisco, could not be immediately reached.

After an emergency meeting of BMW, its Western dealer board members and Grey, it appeared that the creative team was intact [Adweek, Feb. 6] and that a review had been averted. Prior to that Jan. 27 meeting, key members of BMW’s Western regional dealer board said that a change in the creative team at Grey could lead to an account review.

The move by Merlotti increases the prospects of a review of the BMW regional business, according to a dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There are lots of unanswered questions,” said the source. “The ball is in Betsy [Sperry’s] court to present a plan to [BMW advertising manager] Jeff [Byers] that will satisfy the dealer board.

“Knowing that the creative heart of the team is gone is a huge liability,” the source added, “and makes the potential of a review very likely.”

After a brief period of freelancing, Merlotti was hired by then president John Crosson at Grey [Adweek, March 10, 2003] specifically to build a creative team capable of winning a car account, which Grey accomplished after a review in December 2003.

Merlotti started at DDB Chicago in 1987 in client service, where he successfully lobbied to put then 23-year-old Michael Jordan on the Wheaties box. He later became a copywriter on DDB’s Anheuser-Busch team, working on two top-rated Bud Light Super Bowl spots and also crafting general-market advertising for Budweiser.

In 1997, Merlotti led creative on the “Did somebody say McDonald’s?” campaign, earning his first Cannes Lion. Moving to JWT in the late ’90s, he worked on “Never miss a genuine opportunity” ads for Miller Genuine Draft, winning the 2001 Chicago Windy Awards for top national campaign.