Garfinkel Lands at D’Arcy

NEW YORK–After abruptly leaving his post as CEO of Lowe Lintas & Partners in January, veteran ad man Lee Garfinkel has chosen the next venture in his advertising career.

Following months of courtship by several global agencies, Garfinkel has decided to take the top global creative post at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, as expected [Ad week, July 30]. He becomes president and chief creative officer worldwide, a new position, although in effect he succeeds former worldwide creative director John Nieman, who resigned in May 2000. Garfinkel, 46, is now part of a triumvirate that includes president and CEO worldwide John Farrell and president and chief branding officer Susan Gianinno, who also holds the title of chairman.

Other shops that tried to woo Gar finkel after he left Lowe Lintas included Grey, Young & Rubicam and Publicis, sources said. Garfinkel declined to identify who he was approached by.

“Susan and John best articulated their vision for making D’Arcy a top-tiered creative agency,” said Gar finkel of his decision to join the $7 billion network, whose clients include Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Molson and Cadillac. He said he also was impressed by the creative leadership at D’Arcy, including recently installed North American ecd Peter Angelos, who arrived in June, and Detroit chief creative officer Gary Topolewski, who came in May.

Garfinkel’s appointment at D’Arcy comes seven months after Farrell and Gianinno assumed leadership of the network, with a mandate to up grade the creative in each of the agency’s 131 offices around the world.

“It’s a tangible indication of the direction D’Arcy is headed in,” Farrell said of Garfinkel’s hiring. “Our existing clients will be excited, and potential clients will be interested. He’s a creative talent who knows how to lead, and he’ll be a genuine third partner to Susan and me in every aspect of running the company.”

As such, each has added the new title of president, and all three report to Bcom3 chairman Roger Haupt.

The agency set its sights almost exclusively on Garfinkel, although it did look at several other candidates. “We knew we wanted Lee and nobody else,” Gianinno said.

D’Arcy made its first overture in February, just as Garfinkel was beginning to negotiate the terms of release from his contract with Lowe Lintas parent Interpublic Group. The talks finally heated up last month, after Garfinkel wrapped up his settlement with IPG.

“There’s an incredible amount of commitment from [D’Arcy’s leadership] to build a great agency,” Gar finkel said. “They’re a good balance for each other, and I think they’ll be a good balance for me.” Besides, he said, the most important criterion when deciding to go with an agency–“besides the name on the door?is who the partners are.”

Garfinkel had an eight-year run at Lowe Lintas. He left after a year of client defections, due in part to the mega-merger. Now he seems intent on focusing on creating great work, although he will contribute to new-business efforts and strategic decision-making as well.

“My goal is to spend the majority of time working on clients’ business,” Garfinkel said. “At the end of the day, the responsibility for all the D’Arcy creative around the world is going to be mine.”

D’Arcy employs some 2,000 creatives worldwide, including about 70 in New York, where Garfinkel will be based.

Comparing the reels of agencies that pursued him, Garfinkel said, “I was happily surprised to see that D’Arcy’s reel was better.” In particular, he cited the “Forever Young” spot for Pampers, the Italian office’s work for Fiat and the Molson “Rant” spot, which won a bronze Lion at Cannes last year.

The Bronx native, who says he leads by example, began his career at Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver, where he wrote memorable ads for Subaru. He then joined BBDO as a creative director on Pepsi. At Lowe Lintas & Partners, he ran the creative department before rising to U.S. CEO and chairman, producing award-winning work for clients including Mercedes-Benz and Heineken during his tenure.

His main goal at D’Arcy is not a modest one. Garfinkel said he hopes to ensure that in about two years from now, “people look at D’Arcy as one of the best creative agencies in the world.” Noting the paucity of great work coming from the industry these days, he added, “I think there are great opportunities, [and] we have a good client base to start with.” And it’s not just about TV spots and print ads: “I think now there are thousands of ways to be creative.”