It's a new post-Hal era now that Kirk Souder, who co-founded Marina Del Rey-based Ground Zero in 1993, has moved north to San Francisco's Publicis & Hal Riney to become the agency's president/ECD. Souder's arrival returns a creative to the shop's helm, previously held by Scott Marshall, now the agency's CEO. Souder also takes the creative torch from legendary founder Riney, who officially retired and became chairman emeritus last summer. After a two-year hiatus from advertising to spend time with his family, the 41-year-old Souder got right to work on reconfiguring the agency's brand. "I think it's important at this stage for Publicis & Hal Riney to figure out its positioning in the marketplace," he says. "We've essentially been treating the agency like any new brand that just came in the door and we're creating new positioning and new materials to represent it." Which may be as basic as revisiting the shop's past. "Hal Riney is essentially responsible for three or four of the most historic case histories of the last 20 years," Souder claims. "We're still working it out, but I think we're going to concentrate on this company's ability to consistently change the landscape for the brands they get involved with."
The shop earned its creative rep via campaigns like Bartles & Jaymes' "Frank & Ed," back in the days of wine coolers, and the populist-themed launch of Saturn in '89. Like the rest of the Bay Area shops, it suffered blows from the dot-com fallout, and was especially hard hit by the loss of Saturn to Goodby, Silverstein, in 2002, though it continues to score on the long-running and wildly successful Sprint PCS campaign. But Souder rejects the notion that the agency has lost its way in recent years. "Clearly, when you have one of the five true ad legends at the helm for many years, when that person decides to leave, which has to happen eventually, there's a state of flux as to 'who we are.' That's what this repositioning is meant to remedy."