Wieden Seeks Nike Creative Chief

Chuck McBride to Join TBWA/C/D, Reuniting Him With Levi’s
SAN FRANCISCO–Looking for more creative firepower on the Levi’s account, TBWA/Chiat/Day’s Lee Clow is recruiting Wieden & Kennedy’s top creative, Chuck McBride, to become executive creative director of the agency’s San Francisco office.
McBride, 36, who once headed up creative efforts for Levi Strauss & Co.’s Levi’s brand at Foote, Cone & Belding’s San Francisco office, will join TBWA/C/D in the next few weeks from his current post as co-creative chief on Nike at Wieden in Portland, Ore., the agency confirmed. Hal Curtis partners with McBride on Nike.
McBride’s departure opens up what is one of America’s, if not the world’s, most high-profile creative jobs. In his stint in the post–almost two years–McBride oversaw the creation of the “What are you getting ready for?” campaign, which won two gold Lions at Cannes this year. While great creative work is expected from whoever holds the post, the risks and the pressure are considerable. Wieden has struggled to defend its turf as the lead agency on Nike’s $300-350 million account. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has made inroads in the U.S., Foote, Cone & Belding has taken a piece of Wieden’s South America business, and Dentsu Y&R won a new task in Southeast Asia.
Wieden is developing a plan to replace McBride, but its specific strategy was unclear at press time.
McBride is known as being strong-willed and assertive toward clients, said sources. “The primary reason we hired Chuck is because of the creative talent he represents,” said president and CEO Carisa Bianchi. “He can bring the passion to the creative product that we’re looking for.”
In his new post, McBride will succeed executive creative director Peter Angelos as the senior creative staffer and will join with Bianchi in co-managing the shop. Angelos will be working on accounts such as Pets.com, said the source, and report to McBride.
Clow was not available for comment. McBride said he decided to accept Clow’s offer for personal reasons. “I have the best job in the world [at Wieden], but sometimes you have to adjust your life outside of work,” he said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done for Nike.”
Like David Page, the executive creative director of TBWA/C/D’s New York office who was recruited by Clow earlier this year, McBride has been a long-distance favorite of TBWA/C/D’S chairman and chief creative officer for several years, said sources. A veteran of Goodby as well as FCB, McBride has been looking to move back to the Bay area.
With creative experience on both Levi’s and Nike under his belt, McBride is “ideally” suited to try and steady TBWA/C/D’s rollercoaster performance on Levi’s, said a source.
Known as a workaholic with a penchant for dark humor, McBride might be best-known for his work on Levi’s baggy Wide Leg jeans. That work included two hit TV spots: “Elevator Fantasy,” in which a young man and woman spot each other in an elevator and fantasize about their life as a couple; and “Doctors,” in which a hospital operating room unexpectedly becomes the scene of a musical number sung by doctors and patients.
Despite the critically acclaimed work, McBride’s offbeat approach was not appreciated by former Levi’s chief executive of the Americas, Gordon Shank, and McBride resigned in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the client put the jeans account into review and selected TBWA/C/D. Shank subsequently has become chief marketing officer worldwide and does not directly oversee U.S. advertising.
–with Angela Dawson and Joan Voight