Clow Puts His Faith in McBride

Lee Clow, chairman and creative director of TBWA Worldwide, has finally passed the creative torch. After years of speculation, infighting and senior staff defections over who will be named Clow’s successor, Chuck McBride, last week named creative director of the agency’s North American network, is now the anointed heir apparent.

While Clow, 57, fell short of describing the 37-year-old creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day’s San Francisco office as his successor, he said McBride is the person who will help him define a new vision for the agency. “He will be my partner in developing the standards and strategies for the future,” said Clow. “The other offices will be expected to live up to that.”

Clow appointed McBride to the newly created position, sources said, after prodding from Bob Kuperman, president/CEO of TBWA Americas, and Tom Carroll, president/CEO of the Playa del Rey, Calif., office. Both strongly encouraged Clow to develop a succession plan in order to signal the agency is addressing the future and help stem the tide of senior executives leaving the agency.

During the last year, several senior creatives have left, sources said, because they saw no room to be elevated. Top Nissan creative Rob Siltanen, once believed to be in line for the much-coveted successor role, left the agency last year to open his own shop. Chuck Bennett and Clay Williams, the team behind Taco Bell and the Energizer Bunny, left to start directing.

Recruited from Wieden + Ken-nedy last October as executive creative director in San Francisco, McBride took charge of Levi’s and other high-profile accounts such as Sony PlayStation and Pets.com.

“He is the kind of talent that can take this agency to the next level and be responsible for the future,” Clow said. “This guy has impressed me. He’s a dynamo.”

McBride, the former manager of an apartment complex, absorbed the news last week with characteristic humility. “I’ve never been self-aware of my importance in the agency or the industry,” he said. “I never think when I do some thing it’s going to have this effect on people.”

In his new post, McBride will oversee the creative output of all four TBWA\C\D offices in North America: Playa del Rey, San Francisco, New York and Toronto. He will remain in San Francisco and manage the creative department there, including the Levi’s account. Gary Topolewski, recruited last spring, remains executive creative director in Playa del Rey.

McBride, a professed workaholic with a penchant for irreverent humor, has not been at the agency long, but his influence has been readily apparent. Last fall, TBWA\C\D launched its first work for Levi’s on McBride’s watch. The umbrella campaign, tagged, “Make them your own,” included a well-received Spike Jonze-directed spot featuring people trying on jeans in a store dressing room.

For Engineered Jeans, the shop created four spots with photo animation, direction and music by Icelandic band GusGus. A recent integrated campaign for Silvertab, “Lost But Not Lost,” centered on the adventures of three Americans traveling in Morocco.

McBride was a late convert to advertising, getting involved in the business in his late 20s when he landed a copywriting position at BBDO West in San Francisco. He later worked as a copywriter on Isuzu and “Got milk?” at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

After Goodby, McBride joined FCB Worldwide in San Francisco, the predecessor to TBWA\C\D on Levi’s. His work on the brand included two hit TV spots: “Elevator Fantasy,” in which a young man and woman spot each other in an elevator and fantasize about their life as a couple; and “Doctors,” in which a hospital operating room becomes the scene of a musical number with doctors and patients.

McBride continued his success as creative director at Wieden. The Nike campaign tagged “What are you getting ready for?” won two gold Lions at the International Ad Festival in Cannes in 1999, and the “Morning After” Nike spot won an Emmy for outstanding commercial this year.

“It’s great that Lee [Clow] recognized his work and gave him that responsibility,” Carroll said of Mc-Bride. “I think it’s great for the agency. It allows us to build another generation of Chiat/Day.”

Carisa Bianchi, president of TBWA\C\D in San Francisco, echoed Carroll’s sentiments. Bianchi, who has worked with McBride since he arrived at the agency, said he has elevated the work and thoroughly deserved the promotion. “He’s one of the best talents in the country, and that kind of talent should be recognized,” she said.

McBride knew the spotlight was on him when he arrived at TBWA\C\D, but he said he simply set about finding the best ideas for the work. He also wanted to foster the kind of camaraderie that would get the work at the San Francisco office back on track.

“If you give people someone they can look up to, it helps them do good work,” he said.

“Here, the younger guys are looking up to the older ones, so it rubs off in a lot of different ways,” McBride continued. “If you can break that barrier, you open a whole new world for people to participate in, especially the creatives.”

ALANLEVENSON