ECD Mahan Leaves McCann L.A.

LOS ANGELES Executive creative director Richard Mahan has left Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson here to start his own agency, according to sources. Mahan declined comment.

The shakeup at McCann Erickson’s Los Angeles office was precipitated by the ascension of Steve Levit to the position of CCO in charge of creative on all agency accounts, according to sources.

That leaves the creative leadership of McCann’s Nestle and IHOP businesses in Levit’s hands. Mahan oversaw Nestle for seven years and led IHOP since the agency won it six years ago. He also played a crucial role on the winning IHOP pitch team.

“McCann Erickson continues to be our agency of record,” said an IHOP representative today, declining further comment. The restaurant chain spends $75 million annually on ads, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

“I’m excited to be working on both Nestle and IHOP,” said Levit. “Taking something of a pause on automotive is a good thing for me. And McCann still has GM’s retail work. We can still help them. And we are starting to show Nestle some exciting work.”

In January, Levit came to McCann from The Richards Group, Dallas, specifically to lead the Buick business in an unusual virtual-agency arrangement in which Levit, working in Los Angeles, would direct a group based mainly in McCann’s Birmingham, Mich., office.

Despite the attempt to keep the business, the agency lost Buick to Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett last month.

According to sources, Mahan started a breakaway agency in Santa Monica, Calif., called Tactic, though he is currently completing a package of McCann commercials for IHOP as creative director. Levit said the work under way had started before Mahan left the agency and would be completed under Mahan’s direction.

Today the Glendale, Calif.-based company confirmed that IHOP had agreed to acquire Applebee’s restaurant chain by the fourth quarter. Last week, McCann Erickson won Applebee’s $180 million account.