It's been seven years since that comment. Now, Mr. Carruthers is joining FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, as executive creative director at a time when both men have designs on what could become a consolidated global Levi-Strauss account.
"I would like it if we had Levi's back in here. It would be a dream come true," said Mr. Carruthers.
FCB lost the Levi's jeans business in 1998 to TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey and San Francisco, retaining the Dockers and Slates brands. But that hasn't stopped FCB and other shops from dreaming of reuniting Levi Strauss' three brands at one agency.
For now, however, the marketer has given the incumbents a chance to prove themselves.
In Europe, BBH handles most of the business. When he was there, Mr. Carruthers produced Levi's "Swimmer" spot for its jeans that became a Cannes winner.
But Levi Strauss is still only one consideration for Mr. Carruthers at FCB, one of the West's largest shops with $800 million in billings, $250 million of which comes from its AT&T Wireless account. FCB also houses another $130 million in dot-com business, including CBS.MarketWatch.com -- a relatively new area for Mr. Carruthers, who said that in Europe the category lags the U.S. His experience in automotive, working on BMW while at WCRS in London, also may come in handy for FCB client Chrysler.
A soft-spoken, newly engaged Brit, Mr. Carruthers, 41, is the son of a pub owner. One of his first jobs was as a runner for a London art studio. There, an up-close look at advertising inspired him to get into the business.
He brought an ad to the agency's owner who was having lunch -- and an obviously good time at a restaurant. "Make this headline bigger," he recalls the agency owner saying to him before quickly returning to the festivities. Mr. Carruthers remembers thinking, "How do you get into this job?"
After starting at a small shop in 1981, he proceeded to land top creative slots at some of England's leading agencies, boasting initials such as BBH, BMP DDB and WCRS. He joined WCRS in 1993, rising to joint creative director.
Mr. Carruthers picks up the reins at FCB once held by the late, legendary creative director Mike Koelker of Levi's 501 blues fame, and FCB staffers believe his reel in some ways displays a similar creative bent. Geoff Thompson, chairman-CEO of FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, and creative director for FCB Worldwide, handled the office's creative duties after Mr. Koelker's successor, Paul Wolfe, left.
Mr. Carruthers seems unperturbed by the prospect of making his mark in a city of creative giants such as Hal Riney, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, as well as young turks such as TBWA/Chiat/Day's Chuck McBride.
"[It's] very simple," Mr. Carruthers said of his task. "Do good work."