Earlier this month, Mr. Hicks, 31-a former VP-regional account director at Leo Burnett Co., Mexico City, most recently a student of Harvard University School of Business-succeeded Chairman Charles Porter as president of Miami-based Crispin.
In moving from Burnett to Crispin, Mr. Hicks leaves behind six years-his entire advertising career-at a global agency of 8,000 employees with 1996 billings of $5.8 billion to work at a 55-person agen-cy billing $55 million.
Mr. Hicks said he joined Crispin to take advantage of recent opportunities given to small, creative agencies.
"There is a decreasing number of long-term integrated partnerships," said Mr. Hicks. "The ad industry is evolving and hot creative, like that which Crispin Porter & Bogusky is doing, is all that matters anymore . . . it's the only thing that can't be internalized by the clients or farmed out."
He cited the unbundling of marketing services-through clients becoming more involved in the advertising process; the increasing number of marketing consultants; and the division of marketing resources like media buying-as factors giving small, creative agencies an edge over larger full-service agencies.
"This is a real industry trend that is going to restructure agencies today," he said. "Big clients are now giving projects out to smaller agencies-they want great creative ideas . . . and we're positioned very well to take advantage of that."
Being trend conscious is what led Mr. Hicks to Cambridge, Mass., for his MBA after spending four years managing Burnett's Kellogg Co. cereal business in Latin America.
"When you work day to day, it's tough enough to look up from your desk, much less step back and take a look at the industry as a whole," said Mr. Hicks, adding that he went to Harvard to "take a break, look at the industry and get ahead of it a little bit."
In joining Crispin, Mr. Hicks also returns to this hometown of Miami, where he'll be reunited with Crispin Creative Director Alex Bogusky, a family friend he has known since he was 7 years old.
Mr. Hicks also has known Mr. Porter for more than two decades, his father having worked with Mr. Porter and Mr. Bogusky's father in the Miami advertising industry during the 1970s and '80s.
Mr. Hicks said his account experience will complement the creative background of Messrs. Bogusky and Porter.
Crispin "was run by two creatives. Bringing in a third person adds a role from a different discipline that can provide a different perspective," he said, adding that his large-agency experience will help the agency expand with new insights since "Alex and Chuck never really worked in a big agency."
Mr. Hicks has set some early goals, with the first involving internal changes in the next few months.
"We're going to make changes internally to service the clients we have better" and to "optimize the business model we have," he said, noting those changes include enhancing the computer systems, hiring additional employees and putting more emphasis on employee training. With the internal changes in motion, Mr. Hicks will then focus on gaining new business.
"A lot of growth will hopefully come from existing clients," he said, adding he wants to be sure "the current clients are as happy as they can be. The best new business leads come from happy clients."
EMPHASIS ON CREATIVE
Mr. Hicks said he will strive to "get their creative message to more clients." He added that although he will be hands-on in all aspects of the full-service agency, his emphasis will be on the creative product, encouraging "creative advertising that sells, not just advertising that is noticed at award shows."
Although Burnett and Crispin "are very far apart" in terms of agency structure and size, Mr. Hicks said his experience at Burnett will aid him in a variety of areas.
"Working internationally gave me a lot of autonomy at a young age," he added, noting one challenge in making the move from Burnett to Crispin will be not having a large-scale global network to rely on.
At Burnett "with one phone call I could find someone who had basically done everything," he said. At Crispin, "I don't have that comfort anymore."