Bowen Arrives at BaylessCronin

Veteran agency executive Steve Bowen becomes Omnicom’s man in charge at BaylessCronin this week.

Bowen, 58, takes command of the floundering Atlanta shop with orders from Tom Harrison, Omnicom’s vice chairman and CEO of the network’s diversified agency services unit, to grow new business and keep creative standouts Tim Bayless and Jerry Cronin under the corporate banner.

“Jerry’s reputation speaks for itself,” said Harrison, who oversaw Omnicom’s August 1999 purchase of the shop. “Tim is one of the most creative guys I’ve met—a master at his craft and profession.”

What has been missing, said Harrison and other sources, is strategic expertise and discipline, something Bowen, an ex-Marine and former president and chief operating officer of J. Walter Thompson, hopes to bring to the table.

“Steve has a head for this stuff,” said Cronin, whose creative credits include work on Subaru and Nike at Wieden + Ken-nedy. “We’re in danger of becoming a creativeboutique, and in this economy we wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Most recently, Bowen was director of business development (and ran the BMW motorcycle account) at New York’s Merkley Newman Harty & Partners, with which BaylessCronin has a working relationship. At JWT, in the early 1980s, Bowen was group account director on the Burger King business.

“We realized we needed help last winter when we took a torpedo amidships [Merkley lost the $120 million BellSouth account],” said Bayless. “We raised our hand, [met] with Harrison and said, ‘Bring in someone to provide extra juice.’ “

Bowen’s arrival also puts an end to speculation that the shop might be shut down or merged into another Omnicom unit.

“There was never even a hint of closing down,” said Harrison, who likened the $50 million shop’s potential to that of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. “That would be asinine.”

Church’s Chicken, ESPN, Jefferson-Pilot Financial and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks are among BaylessCronin’s national accounts.

Cronin and Bayless each carry the title of managing partner. Bowen may ultimately assume the presidency and chief operating officer’s role, while Bayless moves to chairman, Harrison suggested.

“This is world-class talent. We’ve got to get them working on world-class business,” said Bowen. “Or else we’re wasting them.”