JWT Looks to Kemp to Energize Creative Team

J. Walter Thompson executives here are hoping Rick Kemp’s sometimes controversial style can energize the agency’s 60-person creative department.

“Pushing the creative envelope is a big part of what he is able to do,” said JWT Chicago president Brian Heffernan, who will be Kemp’s direct superior.

Kemp, 40, assumes the title of evp, executive creative director. The post was previously held by Dennis Ryan, who left in late November to take the lead creative position at Omnicom-owned Element 79 Partners, which handles $400 million of PepsiCo business.

Kemp, a Toronto native, held the top creative position at JWT’s To ronto office for the last four years. He had long been favored to take the job in the Chicago office [Adweek, Dec. 3], in part because of his ties to sev eral of the agency’s top clients, including Kraft, Unilever and Nestlé.

“We have worked with the Toronto office on some campaigns for Kraft,” Heffernan said. He added that Kemp’s experience working for several Labatt beer brands should transfer well to the agency’s Miller Genuine Draft account.

In addition, Kemp’s calm and consistent de meanor will mesh well with the shop’s client roster, particularly Kraft, Ryan said. The two know each other from their membership on JWT’s Worldwide Creative Council.

Kemp is credited with revital izing JWT’s Toronto office, having won a number of awards, including a Cannes silver Lion for a Halls lozenges commercial and a gold at the London International Awards Show for a Kraft Dinner television commercial.

“Kemp totally revived that shop,” Ryan said. “He consistently produces solid work.”

Yet Kemp’s tenure in Toronto was not without controversy. A commercial for Kraft’s Nabob cof fee had to be re-edited after viewers complained it was insensitive to animals. The ad showed a puppy ransacking its owner’s house and being sent back to the pet store after spil ling coffee grounds on the floor.

Kemp is unapologetic about taking creative chances. “I look for the real truth and present that truth in a surprising and sometimes controversial way,” Kemp said.

Heffernan, too, was unaffected by the criticism. “You can’t play it safe all the time to get great work,” he said.