Mr. Owen, a two-year employee of the agency and right-hand man to Chairman-CEO Ed Vick, was previously exec VP-world-wide director of marketing.
With the help of Mr. Owen, 45, and a team of other top managers recruited from outside Y&R, Mr. Vick already has achieved a dramatic turnaround at Y&R since taking the helm of U.S. advertising in 1994.
In addition to functioning as a "strategic adviser on branding issues" for clients including American Express Co., Andersen Consulting, AT&T Corp. and United Airlines, as Y&R's chief strategic officer, Mr. Owen's main responsibility will be to function that way on behalf of Y&R.
"The [challenge], as I see it, is that of helping to plan and implement the future operating structure and systems of Y&R Advertising," said Mr. Vick, who took on worldwide advertising duties last year. "We are not going to be happy to build this agency incrementally. We have to constantly rethink who we are and where we're headed."
Mr. Owen's career has been a low-profile one. While at San Francisco-based identity consultancy Landor Associates (owned by Y&R) from 1985 to the early 1990s, he created the ImagePower study that eventually became the Y&R Brand Asset Valuator. He left Landor to serve as exec VP-director of strategic development at Lintas Worldwide, New York, working on IBM Corp. and other clients, before joining Y&R at the request of Mr. Vick in 1994.
KEY ROLE IN AT&T WIN
Mr. Owen also played a key role last summer when Y&R beat out three other AT&T agencies in a pitch for a new corporate campaign. A series of commercials created for that campaign will begin airing soon.
In 1996, Y&R achieved significant new-business gains, including United's international creative account and $120 million worldwide media buying; U.S. and European assignments from Campbell Soup Co.; and a large portion of Blockbuster Video's $140 million account.