Mr. Jobs' decision to help pick an agency came days after Apple ousted Chairman-CEO Gil Amelio and announced Mr. Jobs would assume a broader advisory role.
JOBS, CLOW MEETING?
Mr. Jobs met privately last week with Lee Clow, chairman-chief creative officer at TBWA Chiat/Day North America, said two executives with ties to the agency. Neither man returned phone calls last week, and the agency had no comment on whether it will pursue Apple.
The two have remained close since Mr. Jobs and Chiat/Day were shown the door in the mid-'80s. Close observers said Mr. Clow would have a hard time saying no if Mr. Jobs asked him to help save ailing Apple.
David Roman, Apple VP-advertising and brand communications, halted plans last week to trim a list of about a dozen agencies and also canceled a briefing set for today for the short-list shops.
Apple, however, is sticking with its plan to hire a shop by Sept. 1.
'THE REVIEW IS STILL ON'
"The review is still on, and Steve will play a significant role in it," Mr. Roman said, adding Mr. Jobs "asked to really get involved in terms of getting the short list . . . He felt this was a critical area."
Mr. Jobs' decision to become, by default, the most influential member of the review committee spins the search in a new direction. Apple's decision last month to review prompted BBDO West, Los Angeles, to resign.
Mr. Roman acknowledged the close ties between Messrs. Jobs and Clow, but said Mr. Jobs is committed to a full review.
Mr. Jobs' arrival threw contending shops for a loop. An executive at one shop seen as a strong contender said he's having second thoughts about participating.
Apple's list includes Arnold Communications, Boston; Foote, Cone & Belding and Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco; Merkley Newman Harty, New York; Dailey & Associates, Los Angeles; and Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.
AGENCY EARLIER DECLINED
TBWA Chiat/Day declined an initial invitation to the Apple review, reportedly because it made a commitment to new client Taco Bell Corp. not to immediately take on more new business. One way around that could be for the agency to service Apple from its New York office rather than its Venice, Calif., office.
Some observers believe TBWA Chiat/Day is in the best position to help save Apple.
"Personally, I think they are the one agency that could be successful because they understand Apple," said former Apple exec Bill Cleary, founder of CKS Partners, Cupertino, Calif., former agency for Mr. Jobs' Next Computer.
Mr. Jobs, who returned as a part-time adviser in December when he sold Next to Apple, is seen as a strong candidate for CEO.