PEOPLE: PLAYER PROFILE: MCCANN CALLS DILLON HOME TO HEAD NO. AMERICAN BIZ: YEARS OVERSEAS TAUGHT HIM LESSONS ABOUT FRAGMENTATION OF MARKETPLACE

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Donald dillon is facing one of the big challenges of his career -- the New York real estate market.

After spending the last 16 years overseas for McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Mr. Dillon is coming back to New York to head McCann's North American operations. Unfortunately, New York real estate is in a boom, so finding a place to live will be tougher than taking over McCann's flagship office.

Mr. Dillon is currently bunking with his two grown daughters in the apartment he bought when he last lived in the city, while he prepares to take over his new position this month.

MOVING VETERANS

Packing the family home in Madrid -- where he was chairman of McCann Spain and area director of Eastern European operations -- will probably end up in the hands of his wife, Fran, who is experienced at relocating across time zones, said Mr. Dillon.

Since his appointment was announced in January, Mr. Dillon has been traveling frequently to New York to meet staff and clients and becoming involved in the creative work and new-business development in North America.

The 53-year-old Mr. Dillon succeeds James R. Heekin, the regional director of McCann-Erickson North America, in a reshuffling of McCann's management where several top-level executives changed positions, effective April 1.

Mr. Heekin was named regional director of Europe/Africa/Middle East and David Warden, chairman of McCann-Erickson U.K. Group of Agencies, London, will add Mr. Dillon's Eastern European duties to his own.

"I'm thrilled to be back in New York. . . . this office is on a roll," said Mr. Dillon.

The native New Yorker, is coming full circle. He grew up in an advertising family in the city; his father was a creative director at Compton Advertising and his two brothers and twin sister are all in advertising. While his father and siblings all worked in creative, he chose account management.

He began his career at Compton in 1968 and moved to William Esty Co. in 1972 before landing at McCann in 1976. He went overseas in `81, first as head of McCann Philippines. He moved to Tokyo in 1986 as McCann's client service director there, and four years later became president of McCann-Erickson Japan. He left Tokyo in 1993 for the European positions he is now exiting.

MULTICULTURAL MIX

Through it all, his two daughters moved with the family and attended school overseas.

"They're multilingual, colorblind, multicultural -- it's great," he said. Being overseas "is a great part of your life and it's always with you."

That experience was also useful for him, said Mr. Dillon. Multiculturalism is another way to describe the market fragmentation that all advertisers have to deal with today, he said, so he credits his expatriate experience for his knowledge about how to handle all sorts of marketing challenges.

After that, returning to New York won't be as big an adjustment as it would appear, he said. He kept in touch, thanks to frequent visits and to McCann's focus on sharing knowledge throughout its network.

At least this time, he won't have to learn another language.

"I always joke that I have to learn to speak American," he said.

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