Underwood Heads to Pittsburgh

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CHICAGO–Longtime New York creative Rodney Underwood says he doesn’t expect his move to
Pittsburgh to require much of an adjustment.
“When it comes right down to it, what did I use in New York?” said Underwood, the new chief creative officer at Blattner Brunner. “Five, six, seven restaurants, one deli, a Chinese takeout place and a dry cleaner. … If I can find a good blues bar and a few restaurants, I’m OK.”
Underwood, 46, most recently served as a senior partner and creative director at Bozell in New York, working on accounts including Lycos, Carlsberg beer and Caterpillar footwear. He started his career at Scali, McCabe, Sloves, worked at J. Walter Thomson and the former Ammirati & Puris, and then was a vice chairman and executive creative director at the now-defunct Geer DuBois.
Joining a shop with smaller clients was appealing, he said. Blattner Brunner, a $65 million shop, works for companies including Pittsburgh Paint & Glass, Sky Bank and the American Beverage Co.
“You’re able to get to the people who are the key decision makers,” Underwood said. “There tends to be a little less bureaucracy.”
Also attractive, he said, was Blattner Brunner’s early dedication to integrated marketing, marked by its purchase in 1997 of Lighthouse Interactive, now the agency’s e-commerce subsidiary. Underwood’s task will be to ensure the creative image work is seamless through all media, said Michael Brunner, agency president and chief operating officer. A key goal of the search, Brunner said, was to find someone interested in “the whole e-business side of the business.”
“The idea was to get someone with big brand experience,” Brunner said. “The strategy we have as brand developers is not to be exclusive, to exclude everything we can do and will do on the Internet.”
Underwood gave no specific plans, but said a key to improving the creative product is upgrading strategic planning and “coming up with more relevant insights.”
Underwood replaces Ann McFadden, who is retiring after 40 years in the business, the last nine at Blattner Brunner. The agency conducted a six-month search and interviewed six candidates for the job, Brunner said.