Boone/Oakley Hires President

The deal that brought veteran adman Phil Smith back to the business he abandoned two years ago began with 23 cents.

That was the postage due on the letter Smith sent in July to Boone/ Oakley, introducing himself to the Charlotte, N.C., independent. The letter, which carried a single stamp but was overweight, started a monthlong conversation that resulted in the shop creating the position of president and hiring Smith to fill it.

Since the agency’s launch four years ago, co-creative directors David Oakley and his partner, John Boone, have run the business, building a shop that claims about $15 million in billings and 12 employees. But they ultimately needed an executive to manage the business so they could focus on creative, Oakley said. “We’ve always known we would need someone [in a top management job] eventually,” he said. “We just had to find the right person.”

Smith, 43, a native of Liverpool, England, will develop the agency’s business strategy, help determine which accounts to pursue, participate in pitches and manage daily operations—duties he performed for most of his 15 years in the ad business.

Smith’s last post at an ad agency was managing director of the former Duffy New York, then a division of Publicis’ Fallon. He left in September 2002 to spend more time with his family, moving to Charlotte to be chief creative officer of Muzak. He had left Muzak to work on a novel and open a recording studio when he sent the letter to Boone/Oakley. Prior to Duffy, he was director of account services at Fallon New York.

The challenge of building a shop that has national aspirations drew him back, Smith said. Oakley said he wants to triple billings and staff in three years—a goal Smith said he finds “very realistic.”

And the 23 cents that started all this? Smith paid it in mid-July at his first meeting with the agency’s principals—in pennies.