Tech vet Segall eyes Messner move

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Top creative Ken Segall is looking to trade a lovable iMac for a silicon chip as he heads to Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York.

The former Apple Computer creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., was in negotiations last week to join Messner Vetere as a partner and top creative on the agency's Intel Corp. business. Intel's global account is estimated at $800 million. Mr. Segall wanted to return to New York to be closer to his family, according to executives close to the situation. Previously, Mr. Segall commuted from New York to the West Coast.

He is slated to succeed Michael Lee as a top creative on the Intel account. Mr. Lee will shift his focus to Messner's $200 million-plus Volvo Cars of North America account, helping to deploy European and other global advertising efforts for the client.

Intel representatives did not return calls seeking comment by press time and Mr. Segall couldn't be reached.

A spokesman for Messner Vetere said contract specifics still were being discussed with Mr. Segall.

TECH KNOW-HOW

Mr. Segall brings with him a vast repertoire of technology know-how. He joined TBWA/Chiat/Day in 1997 and worked on Apple's ubiquitous "Think different" campaign and created the colorful iMac spots. Mr. Segall is also well-acquainted with another tech giant -- IBM Corp. He was senior partner-worldwide creative director on the high-profile account at Ogilvy & Mather, New York, prior to moving to TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Chris Wall, Ogilvy's executive creative director on the IBM business, was a colleague of Mr. Segall when both worked at BBDO West, Los Angeles. BBDO had the Apple account prior to TBWA/Chiat/Day. Messrs. Segall and Wall also worked together for a brief period at Ogilvy.

Mr. Wall, himself a tech veteran who labored on the Apple account at BBDO from 1987 to 1995, said Mr. Segall will be a good fit for Intel. This, despite the fact that the account presents a whole different set of creative challenges. For starters: "The iMac is a very appealing thing. It has tremendous aesthetic power," Mr. Wall said.

Intel, on the other hand, is struggling to extend its brand identity beyond silicon chips and into the Internet.

Mr. Wall said Mr. Segall has the patience and knowledge to succeed as head creative on a technology account.

"The problem with any tech account is the ramp-up time is long, the business is complicated, the terminology is complicated and the clients tend not to be that advertising-savvy," Mr. Wall said. "There aren't that many people who have the interest, patience and background to work with technology companies. Ken loves technology."

Regarding Mr. Segall's talents, Mr. Wall said, "A lot of the product work that Apple has done is very typical of Ken, finely crafted. Ken is very much into the details of how things work. He likes that stuff. He's fascinated by small improvements and upgrades, and he's good at bringing that kind of stuff to life."

Recently, the agency broke a variety of creative executions, including some featuring performance artists the Blue Man Group, and others showcasing sports mishaps that were the result of slow processing.

Copy-laden business-to-business e-commerce and Web-hosting ads are less exciting, but have sought to tell Intel's Internet story.

Mr. Segall has had a long and close association with Apple CEO Steve Jobs that extends beyond the Macintosh brand; he also worked with the mercurial Mr. Jobs at Next Computer, a venture that no longer exists. When Mr. Segall was a creative at then-Ammirati & Puris, New York, Mr. Jobs was his client on the now-defunct Next Computer account.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Mr. Segall's likely departure from TBWA/Chiat/Day comes after Apple's stock price was halved in a one-day plunge in September on disappointing sales of its G3 desktops and a late notebook entry.

TBWA/Chiat/Day also made top-level shifts on the Apple account last week. James Vincent has been named to the new post of worldwide account director on the estimated $150 million Apple account. Mr. Vincent was previously a group account director. Sean Hardwich, previously U.S. account director, took the new post of European account director. He'll relocate from Playa del Rey to London. Mr. Hardwich was the first employee TBWA/Chiat/Day hired to work on Apple after it won the account in 1997. TBWA Worldwide Chairman-Creative Director Lee Clow will continue to oversee creative on the account. A TBWA/Chiat/Day spokesman said there are no plans to replace Mr. Segall.

Contributing: Kate MacArthur.

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