"From the very beginning, I wanted a chance where I could create something," said Mr. Brinegar, who began feeding his early business drive by organizing a neighborhood egg-distribution business while in grade school. His entrepreneurial spirit "has always been simmering."
Now 43, he will employ that spirit as he establishes Ammirati's Chicago office, moving over to the shop from a position as senior VP-account director at Leo Burnett Co. Opened for one new client, Ameritech Corp., the office already has an estimated 40 staffers.
DESIRE TO BUILD AN AGENCY
"He has the desire to build an agency," said Martin Puris, chairman-CEO and chief creative officer of Ammirati. "We helped [the office] get off the mark, but from here on in, [Mr. Brinegar and his staff] are responsible" for expansion.
For Mr. Brinegar, "this is about as from scratch as it gets."
He will lead the autonomous Chicago office with the assistance of newly hired co-creative directors Jonathan Moore and Tim Kane.
"I'm going to focus first on making sure we're doing the right things with Ameritech," said Mr. Brinegar, adding that finding permanent real estate is a top priority. The agency is currently housed in subleased space.
Mr. Brinegar's drive earlier helped him move up Burnett's corporate ladder. After graduating from Columbia University with an MBA in finance, he wrote six ad agencies asking for a summer job, saying he would work free in order to gain agency experience. He received only one positive response-from Burnett.
He cut his teeth there working on Pillsbury's Green Giant business as a summer intern. That first job led to a 19-year career, working on a diverse range of Burnett clients including Kraft Foods, H.J. Heinz Co., Lenscrafters, First Brand Corp.'s Glad household products and Dairy Management Inc.
Although he has a lot of client experience, Mr. Brinegar said he is most proud of the work for Dairy Management, where he led an 18-month research and consulting project to create the first strategic platform for the $60 billion dairy industry.
This effort was rewarded when Dairy Management awarded Burnett a $35 million cheese-branding account, along with select milk-branding assignments.
Mr. Brinegar won the agency's internal "best boss" award for 1995, 1996 and 1997, one of seven senior managers named by Burnett's 300-person Client Services Department as the supervisor for whom they'd most like to work.
"It's nice to know that people want to work for you," he said, adding that for him, the secret to successful management is "giving [employees] room to grow" while "also giving support," even if they've made a mistake.
"I was exposed to a lot of different ways of attacking a business [problem at Burnett]," Mr. Brinegar said.
"By working on so many different accounts," he said, "I developed a sensitivity on how to structure things. The right structure in the right situation can lead to better results."