CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- DDB, Chicago, finally found the top creative it's been seeking for more than two years -- in London.
Ewan Paterson, executive creative director at London's Clemmow Hornby Inge & Partners, will take over DDB's Windy City creative department beginning in June, according to people familiar with the matter.
A DDB spokeswoman declined to comment, and an e-mail inquiry to Mr. Paterson was not returned.
The appointment of Mr. Paterson, 47, puts an end to one of the industry's longest-running parlor games. Speculation over who would get the job has been intense, fueled in part by the historic prominence of a position that launched adland legends such as Bob Scarpelli and Keith Reinhard, and in part by the tragic circumstances in which it became available, the February 2008 suicide of Mr. Paterson's predecessor, Paul Tilley.
Beyond those factors, of course, there is also mounting evidence that the absence of creative leadership is taking a toll on the agency. Since the start of the year, it saw its oldest client, State Farm, shift its auto-insurance creative -- nearly half of the creative account DDB has handled since the 1930s -- to DraftFCB, while Wrigley moved work on its Extra gum brand, DDB's largest remaining piece of its roster, to Energy BBDO. What's more, it also failed to land a single Bud Light ad in the Super Bowl for the first time, a signal that perhaps not all is well with another mega client, Anheuser-Busch.
DDB's largest office, which also counts McDonald's and Cars.com among its clients, has already been through two rounds of layoffs this year, totaling close to 40 people, nearly 10% of its total staff.
All of that put pressure on agency president Rick Carpenter to land a creative star capable of providing a much-needed jolt. And -- on paper, at least -- Mr. Paterson, a copywriter by trade, seems to fit that bill.
He started his advertising career at Y&R in 1990, and after five years there, he moved on to BMP DDB, where he spent a decade, ultimately rising in the ranks to the position of joint creative director, where he worked on Volkswagen, American Airlines and Lego.
Mr. Paterson departed DDB for Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 2004, shortly after the birth of his twins, Olivia and James. He told U.K. ad trade Campaign, "I needed to step back from the front lines [of running a creative department]." At Bartle Bogle, he was creative director on one of its key accounts, British Airways, and also toiled on Boddington's beer.
But, a year later, WPP-backed CHI came calling. And since then Mr. Paterson been credited with adding creative spark to an agency that counts Lexus, Best Buy, Tiger Beer, RBS and The Times among its clients. Campaign ranked him the No. 4 creative director in the U.K. in December 2008, noting that he was "widely credited with turning around the creative product at CHI."
Among Mr. Paterson's most-acclaimed campaigns has been the shop's effort for the Drench bottled water band, which included creating a jazz band full of hamsters.
Long considered a formidable new-business machine, CHI recently won accounts from the likes of Nestle and Samsung. (It's also reportedly eyeing a Bartle Bogle-style entry into the U.S.) It's been a long time since DDB, either in Chicago or elsewhere in the U.S., has been seen as much of a force in new-business pitches. It struck out in big pitches for CDW and Cadillac last year, for instance, and also fell short in a U.S.-wide pitch for Volkswagen, which DDB Worldwide handles throughout much of the globe.
But, for all of its troubles, the agency still boasts a blue-chip client roster led by McDonald's and Anheuser-Busch that offers a chance to do strong work on some of the world's most-recognized brands. Mr. Paterson apparently couldn't resist that opportunity, although a handful of other top creatives who were offered the job before him managed to do exactly that.
And many took the trouble Mr. Carpenter had in filling the job as somewhat of an indictment of the state of the agency, something he dismissed in a February interview, in which he said he was close to a deal to ink a top creative. "Look," he said at the time, "it's a very small pool of super-talented people that can do this job well, and most of those people already have really good jobs."