At JWT, Mr. Vega Olmos will be creative chairman, Continental Europe and Latin America, and will be based in both Madrid and Buenos Aires. JWT is also on Unilever's roster.
Departure quickly makes news
The news ricocheted around Latin American websites today, forcing JWT, part of WPP Group, to issue a hasty press release. Mr. Vega Olmos said he just broke the news to Lowe yesterday. Given his global role with Unilever, his departure is a big blow to Lowe, an Interpublic Group of Cos. agency.
Mr. Vega Olmos, 50, built one of Argentina's best agencies, VegaOlmosPonce, with creative partner Hernan Ponce, and was well on his way to building a second successful shop at Lola. Based first in Buenos Aires, then London and finally in Madrid, he was credited with campaigns for Unilever brands including Axe and Rexona that were created in places like Buenos Aires and went around the world.
Calling from Madrid at midnight his time, Mr. Vega Olmos said that he had just sold his last shares in VegaOlmosPonce to Interpublic three months ago, ending a long earn-out for the agency he and Mr. Ponce started in 1997.
"VOP is done, it's a brilliant agency but not mine any more," he said. "And Lola is done. It was just a project and now it has 70 people and is doing good work for Unilever. It's probably a good moment to move on, and I need a challenge. JWT is big enough, and I do believe creativity needs scale."
Mr. Vega Olmos has long had a close relationship with Unilever executives, but switching from one Unilever network to another is not necessarily a move they would favor.
'Not best pleased'
Asked how he felt about Mr. Vega Olmos joining JWT, Simon Clift, Unilever's chief marketing officer, responded by e-mail: "'Not best pleased,' I think would be fair."
Bob Jeffrey, JWT's worldwide CEO, said he had been trying to recruit Mr. Vega Olmos, who will start in January 2009, for a while.
"What attracted him to JWT is the multitude of client opportunity," he said. "He is going to be responsible for creative output in both regions, managing and recruiting talent. All the creative people will report to him."
Mr. Vega Olmos is expected to have a close working relationship with Santo, a very hot Buenos Aires creative agency 51% owned by WPP that does international work for Coca-Cola and other clients.
"From an operational standpoint, Fernando's role will be replaced on Unilever, but it doesn't affect the ongoing management of Lola," said Lowe CEO Steve Gatfield.