"I am not a daily person to the clients and I haven't been for over two years," Mr. Boyko said. "I fly cover. My role has truly been to be the chief creative officer."
Mr. Boyko, 54, announced his retirement last week, effective July 1, to become managing director of the AdCenter at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he's been on the board of directors for the past three years.
Mr. Boyko, who's spent the last 13 years at Ogilvy, is a well regarded and high-profile creative director, which makes the timing of his departure surprising to some.
Ogilvy's work in recent months on key campaigns-including the mLife concept for AT&T Wireless, the Sprite work for Coca-Cola Co. and its Miller Lite work for SAB Miller-has come under criticism, even from within, and was noted by observers as one of the reasons for the departure.
"We did a great job on [Coca-Cola's] Fanta, but was Sprite our best work? No," an Ogilvy executive said. "And mLife has changed because of a dissatisfaction that it wasn't retail enough."
While those within SABMiller's Miller Brewing Co. quietly acknowledged Ogilvy's initial work was problematic, they said the brewer and Ogilvy shared the blame. A Miller spokesman, however, said while sales of Miller Lite had not performed as well as desired, the ads did not appear at fault and executives were disappointed at Mr. Boyko's departure.
"He was bringing key leadership to the team and has been a large part of the progress we've made over the years with Ogilvy," he said.
Talk surfaced as well that Mr. Boyko was interested in the chief creative position at WPP sibling agency Y&R Advertising and that he often had conflicts with superiors.
Said an Ogilvy account executive: "Take it for what it's worth, but Rick banged heads with management. ... Then again, you could say that about most creatives."
But Mr. Boyko said he worked well with those above him and was not courted by Y&R. "I never even interviewed with Y&R," he said, "and yet for the last three, four years this is where people have me going."
Tro Piliguian, CEO of Ogilvy North America, staunchly dismissed any implication that Mr. Boyko's decision to leave was anyone's but Mr. Boyko's. High-ranking executives confirmed that Chairman-CEO Shelly Lazarus offered Mr. Boyko the vacant position of Ogilvy worldwide chief creative officer. The executives also said WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell became involved and offered Mr. Boyko the chance to become chief creative at another WPP agency. Mr. Sorrell said it was an "internal matter for Ogilvy" and referred calls to the agency.
Mr. Boyko's career includes stints at Chiat/Day and Leo Burnett. He's won nearly every major award the industry offers, and many at Ogilvy credit him and Bill Gray, co-president of Ogilvy, New York, with luring back American Express, which briefly went to Chiat/Day in the early 1990s.
Upon Mr. Boyko's departure, Mr. Gray will assume sole management of the New York office. David Apicella and Chris Wall, both currently executive creative directors, will become co-creative heads of Ogilvy, New York.
Now it's up to Mr. Apicella and Mr. Wall to put their distinctive creative touch on Ogilvy.
"It's a big job," Mr. Wall said, "but at the same time it's evolution, not revolution."
contributing: lisa sanders