CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Publicis & Hal Riney President Jamie King is departing the San Francisco agency to become co-president of Euro RSCG's Chicago office.
That Euro's Chicago office –- only three years ago so close to death that the Chicago Sun-Times repeatedly referred to it as a "corpse" -- could snare a well-regarded executive from a strong agency such as Riney is evidence of a significant turnaround there.
The agency, which handles below-the-line work for clients such as Kraft Foods and Sprint, has posted two straight years of double-digit growth, fueled in part by creative-account wins of Anheuser-Busch's Michelob and Valspar Paints.
That trend is borne out by the agency's head count, which has climbed to about 260 from about 150 just three years ago. Maintaining that clip in the wake of the shutdown of bankrupt client Circuit City will require some major new-business wins.
Mr. King, who helped net accounts such as U.S. Cellular and Walmart's Great Value brand at Riney, is regarded as a new-business specialist, something that was not lost on Euro. "I liked his energy, his passion and his experience," said Ron Bess, Euro North American chief operating officer and Chicago CEO. "And I really liked that he was very active in new business."
Within Chicago, however, the move will be most notable because it reunites Mr. King with Euro Chief Creative Officer Steffan Postaer.
The two worked together at the late, successful and somewhat notorious LB Works unit of Leo Burnett, where Mr. King was chief operating officer and Mr. Postaer was the chief creative officer. That unit, founded to pitch technology business in 2001, quickly grew beyond that mission, winning a total of 11 accounts in two years, including Starbucks, Gateway, Lexmark and Earthlink. It also took over Burnett's much-decorated Altoids account, which Mr. Postaer had handled within Leo before starting LB Works.
But the unit butted heads with the mother ship, both in its positioning as nimbler and more integrated (presumably, that meant more so than Burnett) as well as with the occasional blatant client conflict (such as Starbucks, which LB Works ultimately resigned out of deference to major Burnett client McDonald's). Burnett ultimately decided to reabsorb LB Works to eliminate confusion in the market, and it wound up losing nearly all of the subsidiary's clients and most of its executives in short order.
Part of the job's allure
Mr. King, a native Chicagoan who remained at Burnett until 2005, when he left to become Riney's president, said the chance to work with Mr. Postaer again was part of the job's allure. "The work that we did on Altoids, winning Starbucks, I'm definitely looking forward to that sort of partnership again," he said, adding that he was eager to work with co-President Joy Schwartz, a six-year veteran of the agency who has been a key figure in its turnaround.
Ms. Schwartz said in an interview that, generally speaking, Mr. King will focus on new business and she will focus on existing clients -- "although there will be a lot of exceptions," she said.
On departing Riney, Mr. King said he was proud to have helped the agency win business from Walmart, U.S. Cellular and Beam Global Spirits & Wine. "It's with a heavy heart that I'm leaving," he said. "I'll be an admirer from afar."
In a statement, a Publicis spokesman said that Mr. King had informed the agency of his desire to move his family back to Chicago earlier in the year, and that a search to replace him had already focused on a list of "top national candidates" and would likely conclude within a few weeks. "We're happy to hear that this move will work out for him both personally, and professionally."