Q&A: Harvey Marco

NEW YORK Harvey Marco, the incoming chief creative officer at JWT New York, says he’s looking to build creatively on the shop’s recent business success, having added Microsoft Business Solutions, Royal Caribbean, Baileys and Jose Cuervo during the past eight months.

The 43-year-old art director, who starts at the WPP agency next month, is coming off five years on Toyota, as executive creative director of the Torrance, Calif., office of Saatchi & Saatchi. His experience includes Fallon, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Ammirati & Puris, where he first cut his teeth under well-known perfectionist Ralph Ammirati.

A few days after JWT confirmed his hiring, Marco, who’ll report to co-presidents Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan and lead some 100 creatives in New York, talked with Adweek’s Andrew McMains and reflected on his priorities, his management style and why it’s tough to leave his native Los Angeles.

Adweek: What drew you to this job?

Marco: Huge opportunity. Incredible, diverse client roster. Great vibe at J. Walter itself. Great leadership, between Ty and Rose and [worldwide CEO] Bob Jeffrey. I just got a great feel from the place. And they’re doing really good work. They’ve reinvented themselves and they’re right on the cusp of really breaking out. I want to be on top of that wave.

What are your impressions of Ty?

Ty and I really see eye to eye — philosophically. He approaches things just in a real smart, collaborative way and that’s always been the way I’ve operated — through collaboration. And it’s not just Ty; it’s Ty and Rose.

How are you philosophically aligned?

With the integration of offline and online creative. We’re aligned with [how we approach] new business opportunities, structures and processes. We’re both risk-takers and both want to be experimental and do things outside of convention.

How do you feel about taking over someone else’s creative department?

It’s really important the creatives know and the agency knows that I’m not there to shake it up and turn it upside down. This is a partnership with Ty, Rose and myself. It’s not me coming in and pushing everybody out of the way and doing it my way. This is me coming in and adding value where I can and making a difference that way. I see myself very much in the trenches with the creatives, helping them and helping [to] integrate the departments. . . . At the end of the day, it’s not the Harvey Show. It is the J. Walter Thompson show and I want to help out and be part of that.

How would you rate the agency’s reel right now?

It’s very good and I think there’s lots of room for growth and improvement.

How do you think you can improve it?

That’s kind of a loaded question. I need to get there and see. It’s nothing to do with production value; it’s nothing to do with the thinking behind any of it. It’s all really good. A lot of what I’ve seen — the best of the work they’ve done — I don’t think the public is fully aware of it coming from J. Walter. It’s surprisingly good. Part of my goal is to make great work happen consistently across all the brands.

What work jumps out at you?

The DeBeers stuff was really good. They did an installation at Grand Central Station that was incredible. HSBC — the installation stuff they did in the [bank] windows. That stuff was great, really good, really different, really unexpected from brands like that. The “Happy jetting” [campaign] for JetBlue is definitely on its way. . . . There’s some great stuff going on there. It needs to bubble up to the surface and affect everything that they do.