Funke In For Creative Challenge At FCB Irvine

Erich Funke admits it was “frankly unnerving” to see Foote Cone & Belding in Irvine, Calif., lose its $15 million Kawasaki account as he was about to sign on as executive creative director.

But Funke—who believes in tackling challenges head-on, as evidenced by the time he took up parachuting to overcome his fear of heights—said the “positives and opportunities for me far outweighed the news about Kawasaki.

“Any problems I see are fixable,” said Funke, 40, who started Friday at the Interpublic Group agency.

Funke has been charged by FCB Irvine president Jon Tracosas, to whom he reports, with helping to ignite a stagnant new- business operation at the agency, which is dominated by the $230 million Taco Bell account. (Total billings at the office are $270 million, per Adweek estimates.) FCB lost Kawasaki last month when the client moved to O’Leary & Partners in Irvine.

Funke replaces Bill Cimino, who left Omnicom Group’s DDB Chicago for FCB in July of last year, then returned to DDB in May. At FCB, Cimino had replaced Holland Henton, who put in a year as ecd before joining independent Black Lab in Venice, Calif. Cimino could not be reached.

Tracosas, who also has worked at Havas’ Arnold in New York, said building a shop in Orange County is “a lot harder” than in the East, as there are fewer account opportunities. “Now that we have the creative leadership intact, we can go forward,” he said.

An art director, Funke started his career in his native South Africa at TBWA\Hunt\ Lascaris. He was recruited to Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., after slipping a résumé to Lee Clow, who was in Africa for a meeting. Funke, who left last year for Omnicom’s BBDO in Chicago, said he’s glad to be back in a sunny climate.

“What were snow flurries for the natives made us feel like Napoleon trying to take Russia,” he said.