CHALLENGE OF AUTONATION PULLS DRURY FROM OWN SHOP: HARRIS VETERAN TAKES ON CHIEF MARKETING POST FOR HUIZENGA'S LATEST VENTURE

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Veteran ad agency executive John Drury is steering his career into the client side, as marketing chief of used-car chains AutoNation USA and Value Stop.

Mr. Drury, 43, last month was named senior VP-chief marketing officer of the units of Republic Industries. AutoNation is one of the operations at the forefront of the fledgling market for used-car dealer chains; sister unit Value Stop offers older used cars.

AutoNation is a major player in the growing field, but working with Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston-and Zimmerman & Partners, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for Value Stop-Mr. Drury will face the challenge of an increasingly competitive industry.

17 YEARS AT FLA. AGENCY

Mr. Drury leaves behind a 17-year partnership at Harris Drury Cohen, one of Florida's largest agencies at $85 million in billings. He succeeds Tom Gruber, who took the same title, a new post, at Republic.

The executives took different paths to Republic. Mr. Gruber had top marketing jobs on the client side, at Blockbuster Entertainment Group and McDonald's Corp. Mr. Drury logged 20 years at two ad agencies, on the business and finance end.

The bond these two executives share-and what brought them to Republic-is a longstanding working relationship with H. Wayne Huizenga, the man who made Blockbuster a megaforce in its field and plans to do the same with AutoNation.

Mr. Drury said that while at Harris, he handled an eclectic array of some 100 regional and national accounts. Among them, at one point or another, were the Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers, Sports Channel Florida and retail store Home Team Advantage, all of which Mr. Huizenga owns, and hotel chain Extended Stay America, in which Mr. Huizenga is a principal.

LOSSES AT HARRIS

Mr. Drury's jump from agency to client side comes at an inauspicious time for his alma mater. Harris in the past year has lost more than $40 million in billings.

However, Mr. Drury said he made the job switch for the challenge of it, and the losses at Harris had no bearing on his departure.

"John wanted a different kind of challenge," said Stan Harris, Mr. Drury's former partner. "The opportunity of a new challenge always excited him."

AutoNation's advertising is currently just in spot TV markets, but is expected to grow to some $70 million in three years as the company rolls out to more than 100 superstores nationwide.

The challenge now is to continue branding efforts initiated by Mr. Gruber, and "build on the success," Mr. Drury said.

He'll focus the knowledge and experience of working with an estimated 100 clients through the years, including in-depth management, and financial and branding knowledge.

What's in store for Mr. Drury at a Huizenga-run organization? Notoriously long workdays and daunting schedules.

Mr. Drury admitted he will be tested. "The one thing that I need personally is a constant challenge; that's just part of my personal nature," he said. "I love to win, and I work very hard to win."

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