John Berg, 37, exec VP-managing director of the agency's New York office, spent the past 12 years at BBDO primarily as an account exec in charge of high-profile clients including Pizza Hut, Bayer Corp. and AT&T Corp.'s Olympics sponsorship. He also helped BBDO win the $100 million Dell Computer Corp. global branding assignment last September.
The switch to publishing is an unusual career move, he admitted, but not one motivated by unhappiness in his current position.
"It's got nothing to do with BBDO. This is just such an exceptional opportunity," said Mr. Berg, who will oversee ad sales and marketing for Wenner's three titles: Rolling Stone, Men's Journal and Us.
The job at Wenner Media was vacant nearly eight months. Former VP-Group Publisher Dana Fields resigned last August after the birth of her first child.
Wenner Media Chairman Jann S. Wenner and General Manager Kent Brownridge cast as wide a net as possible to find a replacement, talking not only to other publishing executives, but to marketing types in other industries.
Among those reportedly courted for the post were Vogue Publisher Richard Beckman and former Ralph Lauren executive Marian Schwindeman.
"We talked to 31 candidates," said Robert E. Reilly, president of DHR International, which handled the search.
Mr. Wenner said he wanted to expand his senior management with someone who had a broad range of experiences beyond publishing.
"John is a tremendous piece of management manpower," he said. "He's real smart and understands marketing needs. And he has a passion and commitment to what these magazines cover."
MET WENNER OVER PRO BONO WORK
Mr. Berg and Mr. Wenner first met in 1997 when BBDO created a pro bono campaign for Cease Fire, a group formed by Mr. Wenner to educate the public on the danger of keeping handguns at home.
"My background is really interesting for Wenner, and I think points to some truly insightful thinking on their part," Mr. Berg said. "I'm bringing a brand perspective and understanding to what the clients are trying to achieve. But I can also take that brand knowledge and use it to nourish the existing magazine brands."
Mr. Berg's most immediate challenge is to increase ad pages across all three titles and boost circulation.
While the Wenner titles are performing well on the ad-page front, said Mr. Wenner, he believes more opportunities exist for group ad sales and marketing