Jeffrey to take helm at JWT in North America

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As WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson Co. continues its management realignment, Bob Jeffrey will ascend to the top spot in North America.

This week, Mr. Jeffrey will be named North American president, taking on Peter Schweitzer's former duties. Mr. Schweitzer, previously North American chairman, became JWT's worldwide CEO in January. The agency's management shifts began earlier this year after worldwide CEO Chris Jones unexpectedly stepped down, citing health reasons.

In his new role, the 47-year-old Mr. Jeffrey's charge expands from overseeing a single office as New York president to also keeping watch over seven main offices and 25 service outposts in the U.S. and Canada.

In an internal memo that will be distributed today, Mr. Schweitzer wrote that Mr. Jeffrey "has built one of the strongest management teams in the industry; expanded our service offerings in digital branding and content development; and made our flagship office a new-business powerhouse."

During his three years at JWT, Mr. Jeffrey initiated substantial changes at the New York agency. He was an integral player in bringing stability back to the office after high-profile client defections and management turnover.

On the new-business front, he helped land Merrill Lynch & Co., Sun Microsystems and KPMG. He also lured top-level talent such as Michael Campbell, a former creative at Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide; Patrick Corry, a former BBDO account director; former William Morris agent Marina Hahn; and digital guru Kevin Wassong. Since Mr. Jeffrey joined the agency in April 1998, he has helped bring $1 billion in billings to JWT's global network. The New York office has seen billings grow to $1.4 billion in 2000, from $847 million in 1997.

On a less tangible level, Mr. Jeffrey brought a more positive attitude to the Manhattan office by creating a wellness program that offered in-office amenities such as afternoon massages and a roaming "health snack" cart.

Mr. Schweitzer cited Mr. Jeffrey's push for a cross-discipline approach on accounts as another reason for his elevation. "Bob has overseen the transformation of New York from a traditional advertising agency to a fully integrated total communications company," Mr. Schweitzer wrote in the internal memo.


"One of the areas I really want to push is integration," Mr. Jeffrey said, adding that he plans to foster a closer working relationship among disparate offices. He likens the agency business to the military or a sports team. "If you're going to win a war or a game, you have to be unified on philosophy. You need cohesion around a common goal."

Mr. Jeffrey is also expected to extend the Zen-like balance he brought to the New York office across the continent. "The better the environment you create for your staff, the happier and more productive they'll be," he said.

That optimism extends to his economic outlook as well.

"Clearly in this environment the client is our focus," he said. "Clients are as human as everybody else. They have to defend their budgets, their marketing plans. ... If you listen to [financial news networks], you can get derailed in negative psychology. We need to maintain that positive energy. We want to make sure we really add value and deliver."

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