McGee to Lead Callaway at Y&R Brands

LOS ANGELES Jerry McGee’s retirement appears to have been short-lived, though plenty of golfing seems in the offing. The former co-president and executive creative director of WPP Group’s J. Walter Thompson, who was set to retire at the end of June [Adweek Online, May 10], is going to WPP’s Young & Rubicam Brands to head up the agency’s newly won Callaway Golf business, sources said.

McGee would neither confirm nor deny his joining Y&R, but acknowledged that it was his “intent” to lead the account, as he did the pitch. “Put it this way,” McGee said, “only golf would make me consider it.”

“One week of retirement was too long for Jerry,” said David Murphy, president of Y&R’s Irvine, Calif., shop, who first worked with McGee when Murphy joined Ogilvy & Mather in 1982. “It was wonderful having the opportunity to partner with him. He helped lead the pitch, and we want him to come aboard and lead the brand.” Scotching published rumors that McGee was joining Y&R to work on its Ford brands, Murphy said, “The only car he’ll be touching will be a golf cart.”

Murphy said that the agency vigorously pursued Callaway’s business since “the day after we didn’t get it” last year, when Interpublic Group’s Dailey & Associates defended a launch for the Fusion driver. “From that point on, our approach has been remarkably strategic,” said Murphy. “We made great use of our brand asset valuator, and fortunately for us, the way the pitch was structured by Callaway, it was largely about strategy and where to take the brand.”

“Naturally, we’re disappointed that it wasn’t the right time for us to work with them,” said Kim Haskell, evp of business development for Dentsu’s Colby & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., one of the three finalists in the Callaway review, along with independent roster shop Matthews Evans Albertazzi, San Diego. “But we’re truly pleased with the creative we presented. And our strategy, which stressed an ownership proposition that separates them from their competition, was right on.”

The client “really wanted to know how each agency thinks,” said Murphy. “It was not a beauty contest.” Still, he said McGee proudly flashed a Fusion driver with which he had won a driving contest.

In addition to Murphy, the pitch team included ecd John Doyle, Craig Kleber, director of strategic planning, and Jason Maloney, an account director at WPP’s Wunderman.

Murphy said the first creative for Callaway would debut this fall, for the launch of a new club. “The new products are going to be very exciting,” he said. “The competition is very good, too, so what’s needed is to out-think the competition. Gone are the days when you could outmuscle them.”

The estimated $25 million Callaway review [Adweek Online, July 7] included unusual twists along the course. McGee said he frequently golfs with Brian Morris, president of IPG’s Dailey & Associates, Callaway’s incumbent (though it did not defend). Sources said MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky made the shortlist before closing the creative department of its Venice, Calif., office. And one of Dailey’s current ads for the Big Bertha driver stars (as an avid golfer and moonlighting actor) Colby’s Haskell.