In Montague, JWT Adds Final Piece To JWT Puzzle

Ty Montague heads to J. Walter Thompson with a reputation for selling more than just TV ads. In fact, this year, on his watch as co-executive creative director, the New York office of Wieden + Kennedy took home several awards for a bogus crusade against Sega that played itself out primarily on the Web.

JWT worldwide CEO Bob Jeffrey was attracted to Montague’s diverse approaches—from documentaries to chat rooms and guerrilla theater—and hopes he can replicate that as chief creative officer of the WPP Group agency’s $1.4 billion New York headquarters. Right now, however, the shop’s needs appear more basic.

Its reel is seen by search consultants as inconsistent and slightly above average at best. And while the office this year has made the finals of five marquee reviews (Verizon Wireless, Old Navy, ONDCP, Staples, Jenny Craig) totaling $730 million in billings, of those, it won only the $45 million Jenny Craig account. Jeffrey and New York president Rosemarie Ryan acknowledged the conversion issue in discussing the new hire last week.

“A lot of progress has been made,” said Ryan, who joined Jan. 1 from MDC Partners’ Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, but, in her estimation, not enough and not fast enough. Jeffrey agreed that the shop needs to convert more often. Montague’s hire “completes the picture” in terms of New York leadership, Jeffrey said.

Montague, who reports to Jeffrey, will also share management duties with Ryan as co-president. “He will be a true partner,” said Ryan. “He will help me lead the agency, not just the creative department.”

Previously, creative was led by ecd Eric Steinhauser and deputy ecd Nat Whitten. They are expected to remain but focus more on specific clients such as Domino’s, Novell and Merrill Lynch. “My goal is to have Nat and Eric remain as part of the core team,” said Montague.

Montague’s shift from Wieden, with its 75 staffers and $120 million in billings, caught some by surprise, including his friends. JWT’s creative department is roughly the size of Wieden’s entire office, and Montague has mostly worked for smaller creative shops in the past (Chiat/ Day, Bartle Bogle Hegarty). “Some people are incredulous,” he admitted.

Montague knows Jeffrey and Ryan from their days together at Goldsmith/Jeffrey and Chiat/Day, respectively, and even ran a consultancy with JWT’s director of business development, Brian Martin.

At Wieden, Montague was known as a strong-willed leader who was good with clients and passionate about selling through work. “He’s intense,” said art director Robert Rassmussen. “The first time he worked with [directing team] Kuntz and Maguire, they found him to be very Michael Madsen of Reservoir Dogs, because he was coyly threatening. He states his mind and says what he wants, even if he just met you, or never met you.”

“There are very few bigger culture changes than going from Wieden to JWT,” added Thomas Hayo, a JWT veteran who is now group cd at BBH. “Ty has the talent as well as the stubbornness that’s needed to improve the creative output over there.”

Asked to describe his management style, Montague said, “I lead by example, and I hope I can inspire people.”