EDS Veteran to Form Atheneum

Electronic Data Systems marketing chief Don Uzzi is leaving the computer services company to launch a marketing and communications consultancy.

Incorporating the Greek word for “center of knowledge and wisdom,” Uzzi is calling his Dallas company Atheneum Associates.

Uzzi said he plans to work with “four to six high-profile” Fortune 500 clients at a time. Some, but not all, of them will be located in Texas.

Uzzi has been credited with revitalizing the marketing operations and image of EDS in Plano, Texas, over the nearly four years he served as senior vice president of global advertising, marketing and communications.

One well-known ad that contributed to that rebirth featured cowboys herding cats, a television commercial that aired during the 2000 Super Bowl. Publicis Groupe’s Fallon created the spot, as well as another memorable ad that showed people being chased by squirrels as a takeoff of Pamplona’s “running of the bulls.” That spot ran on the 2001 Super Bowl telecast.

In his 27 years as a marketer, Uzzi has also held executive positions at Sunbeam, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi-Cola and Quaker Oats, where he worked with Foote, Cone & Belding on Gatorade’s “Life is a sport, drink it up” campaign.

Uzzi said his decision to leave EDS at the end of the month is not related to the softness in the company’s computer services sector.

“It’s been a goal of mine for quite some time,” Uzzi said. “I think the market is ripe now for a firm that specializes in providing high-valued advice, particularly on the communications and imagery side of the business . . . Today corporate America is under attack.”

Reflecting on his years as a marketer, Uzzi said he has seen the client-agency relationship deteriorate and that “people need to get back to fundamentals.”

Clients are pursuing “the holy grail rather than working with agencies hand in hand as a partner to understand the marketplace, the product need, the consumer that client is looking for,” Uzzi said, “[Clients] are losing patience and everyone needs to settle down and get back to the fundamentals of what drives great products.”

Uzzi’s responsibilities at EDS will be assumed by executive vice president Chuck Griffith.

After reporting last month that net income fell 59 percent for the third quarter, EDS said it would cut about 5,500 jobs and sell off non-core assets.