Chicago shop's profile boosted

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Some might call Gail Pollack a late bloomer.

With 20 years in the ad game, the senior VP-group creative director at Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Chicago, is coming off one of the best years of her career. The 48-year-old art director is one of the brains leading the creative renewal of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. account under new management. Meanwhile, BBDO itself, is evolving under new management, and Ms. Pollack is a central player in elevating the Chicago office's once-sleepy profile.

"She has a rare mix of creativity, focus and also empathy," says Marty Orzio, chief creative officer at the agency since February.

A self-professed National Public Radio junkie, Ms. Pollack easily converses on topics ranging from Russian theater design to evolution. Yet she relishes the joy of smelling wild roses around her 6-acre getaway home on the banks of the Ohio River in Westport, Ky.

"I am a glutton for stimulation and ideas, and for looking at all the different dimensions of things and the element in truth in all of it," she says. "I'm a geek."

Among her most prized skills, Ms. Pollack can disarm even the most difficult film directors with skillful debate and pixie-ish charm.

Torn between fine art and philosophy, psychology or psycholinguistics, Ms. Pollack looked to graphic design as the solution for tapping both hemispheres of her brain. After stints at Doner, Southfield, Mich., and later Ogilvy & Mather and Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago, she free-lanced for a dozen years, which allowed her to spend time with her family and travel the world. She joined BBDO in 1999 and helped make Allied Domecq's Kahlua liqueur and Wrigley's JuicyFruit and Winterfresh gum brands hip again.

Shari Matras, senior marketing manager-oral care at Wrigley, appreciates Ms. Pollack's attention to detail and her unusual approach to solving creative problems. "Gail listens and in a very congenial way ... comes up with a way the agency can develop against what direction we've given, based on their creative thought process and where the brand needs to go and live from the creative angle," she says.

She credits Ms. Pollack for fighting for the details, with her creative team, that make the Orbit gum character Vanessa so fabulously kitschy-and persuasive. "You end up with a product that everybody loves and that every creative wants in their book," she says.

It's only recently that Ms. Pollack has fully embraced the supervisory role.

"When she finally realized it was as fulfilling to be a creative director as it was to be an art director, that was the moment she really bloomed," says Jim Hyman, senior VP-group creative director and her partner for seven years. "When she was able to share more of herself rather than the work she did alone, she became much more of a conscience of the agency, the soul of the agency."

Ms. Pollack's insatiable sense of discovery and reputation for great creative taste fuel her knack for making dusty brands new. "Everything is about creating relevance," she says, hinting at her own fountain of youth. "That's how you stay viable and vibrant in this business."

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