TBWA Taps Saatchi Vet To Run Mars

NEW YORK — Omnicom Group’s TBWA Worldwide has brought on board John McNeel, a longtime Saatchi & Saatchi executive, to oversee the $150 million global Mars account.

As evp, worldwide account director, McNeel will manage nearly a dozen brands, including Whiskas, Uncle Ben’s and Combos. The business is shared by offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, with a big chunk at TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., and a few brands at TBWA\C\D, here.

McNeel, 47, will be based in New York but will spend at least half of his time visiting client executives and other network offices. He reports to Tom Carroll, TBWA’s president of the Americas. TBWA is still assembling McNeel’s team.

Mars landed on the agency’s roster in May after the company ended its 52-year relationship with Bcom3’s D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

In his 14 years at Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi, McNeel held leadership roles in France, Turkey, the Middle East and the U.S. McNeel left the agency in late 2001 and was working as a consultant when he was approached by TBWA CEO Jean-Marie Dru. The two know each other from their days at Young & Rubicam in Paris, where they worked together in the early 1980s.

McNeel’s last post at Saatchi was evp, director of operations on Procter & Gamble in New York. He focused on global staffing and compensation issues and helped the agency adapt to P&G’s shift to a media-neutral, performance-based compensation system.

Before that, McNeel was chairman and CEO of Saatchi’s Middle East operation, whose biggest clients include P&G and Visa.

Carroll described McNeel as a “motivated and experienced leader” and a “world-class talent.”
Owen confirmed that he and his partners were forming a new shop, but declined to discuss it further.

The concept for the spot, which was produced pro bono and ran last week, was shopped around to several corporations, including Citibank, a former Y&R client with which McGarry had strong ties, said sources.

The commercial, titled “Lady Liberty,” features black-and-white images of young children looking up at the Statue of Liberty backed by the lyrics, “I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch where we go and help us be wise in times when we don’t know.”

The anthemic spot, which ran in 90- and 60-second versions, was directed by Leslie Dektor.

A Verizon representative characterized the spot as a one-off and said it had no bearing on the company’s relationship with Lowe in New York, which handles the estimated $400 million Verizon Communications account.

But with Bowen’s track record of moving in on agency business, Lowe is said to be paying extra attention to Verizon. Last week, one agency executive remarked that any shop with clients that would be especially attracted to Bowen’s “humanist touch”-such as Hallmark and Kodak-“better be on their feet.”

Recently, Bowen has produced campaigns for American Express and AT&T.