In what is something of a surprise call, Pat Fallon is said to be close to bringing Southern-accented Bill Westbrook to the colder reaches of Minneapolis to be Fallon McElligott’s new creative chief.
It’s an interesting choice – considering that pulling in Westbrook from FM’s sister shop, The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., takes a key creative player off the regional portion of the Mercedes business that Martin shares with parent Scali, McCabe, Sloves. But also – though Westbrook has his share of Clios, Cannes lions and One Show pencils – his in-your face personal style is different from the gentle, easy going ways of FM’s departed cd Pat Burnham.
Asked to confirm that he was hiring Westbrook away from The Martin Agency, Fallon said, ‘I wouldn’t say that. I would love to have him . . . But there are a lot of steps between that and him being here and I can’t put all of my eggs in one basket. This is a very desired job and we’ve got a list that’s very short, but it’s not been decided.’
Reached Friday, Westbrook confirmed he has an offer from Fallon. ‘That’s a great agency in Minneapolis, but I have great partners here . . . Martin is a special place,’ said Westbrook. ‘I haven’t made up my mind, but I have to give Pat an answer early next (this) week.’
Sources close to both men, though, said they understood that an agreement had been reached between Westbrook and Fallon, though a contract has yet to be signed and clients have yet to be informed.
Though Westbrook, who holds one of two top creative posts at Martin, has been mentioned as Fallon’s top choice for a few weeks, the prospect of him being hired is nontheless a surprise to the affected agency executives and staffers. Because parent agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves is now listing from the sudden departure two weeks ago of a key creative team, as well as what many feel will be the fruitless conclusion of its merger talks with The Lowe Group, it was believed that Fallon would not hire Westbrook, who has become a prominent stabilizer to SMS’s and Martin’s combined Mercedes-Benz account.
What turned the tables, said one executive familiar with the deliberations, was Westbrook’s strong, personal desire to take the Fallon offer, and SMS chairman Marvin Sloves’ reluctance to stand in his way. ‘Marvin Sloves wants me to do what is best for me,’ said Westbrook.
Westbrook went to The Martin Agency 19 months ago after a two-year stint at Earle, Palmer Brown, Bethesda, Md., first as a creative consultant, and later as vice chairman/creative services director. There, he was instrumental in helping Martin and parent agency SMS jointly win the $110-million Mercedes-Benz account last year.
Fallon got to know Westbrook when Fallon was spending considerable time at SMS, N.Y., in 1991 and early ’92 advising Marvin Sloves during the Mercedes pitch.
For Scali, McCabe, Sloves, who figured on Westbrook stepping up on Mercedes until a new cd was found for SMS, N.Y., it means that SMS vice chairman Sam Scali began the search for a new cd last week.
Fallon, commenting on speculation that he was offering Westbrook his name on the agency door to replace co-founder Tom McElligott’s, said, ‘I don’t know where that came from . . . We think we have a brand in Fallon McElligott.’ He added, ‘It would have to be a business decision that would make us change the name and I don’t see a business reason to do that . . . It’s certainly not a recruiting tool.’
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)