The Player: Berkeley sets up new shop to put out fires for agencies

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Remember Winston Wolf, the clean-up guy played by Harvey Keitel in 1994's "Pulp Fiction"? Well that's what some are dubbing Eric Berkeley and his new firm, Hired Gun, set up in October 2002.

Mr. Berkeley, 40, a former worldwide account director at Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, specializes in troubleshooting for agencies and clients around the globe. Not surprisingly, the threat of SARS, terrorism or simply reduced travel budgets means he's much in demand. "Because of SARS a lot of calls are about Asia right now," said Mr. Berkeley, who's planning a trip there in the next few weeks for an unnamed client.

DIPLOMAT

Mr. Berkeley is fresh off another project for a major top ten agency that had won a new account rapidly and was having trouble getting an account team together. "The client accelerated the launch plans and there weren't any account managers in place," Mr. Berkeley said. His role was to "give the agency some breathing room," by taking the place of a team to set up the business structures, talk to the client about their needs and get the campaign adapted in 22 different countries. "My job is to be a diplomat. When you get dropped into trouble spots at a new network you have to create new relationships fast," he said.

"He's not a guy who sits around. He's a smoke jumper," said DDB Worldwide Chief Executive Ken Kaess. Mr. Kaess used Mr. Berkeley to set up a network in Africa for DDB client ExxonMobil. "He's a guy who's willing to go anywhere into any market. He's an incredible internal troubleshooter."

Mr. Berkeley's first task when he gets a new assignment is to book a flight. "I never expected to solve problems on the phone. I'd get on a plane and then ask questions later"-a natural response from someone who spent his childhood on planes with his mother, a former Pan American World Airways stewardess.

Fighting fires isn't the only thing he does: Mr. Berkeley also offers to implement account coordination systems, expand existing business and evaluate the account structures and network capabilities of multinational advertisers.

TRACK RECORD

A native New Yorker, he spent five years in the international marketing department of Neutrogena Corp., two of them in Mexico City. The next nine years were with DDB Worldwide. He became a DDB board honoree in 2000, in part for his role in growing the ExxonMobil account from 23 to 60 countries. "It was pretty intense," remembers Mr. Berkeley, who's also traveled widely through Latin America, where he effectively launched Neutrogena.

Mr. Berkeley is still figuring out his own future business plans-there's been interest from holding companies-but for now he's looking to remain independent and set up regional operations. And as he points out, "The concept is just as applicable in good times as bad."

Fast Facts

Name: Eric Berkeley

Age: 40

Title: President, Hired Gun, New York

Challenge: Helping networks manage and expand their global accounts.

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