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Until recently, Steve Sweitzer was a modern-day nomad. He and his girlfriend traveled around the world, rode motorcycles and criss-crossed the U.S. supporting themselves with free-lance work for ad agencies.

Now Mr. Sweitzer, 42, has decided to plant roots. He's taking up the mantle of executive creative director at McCann-Erickson/A&L, San Francisco.

But it's a challenge that's not as traditional as it may sound. McCann recently merged its San Francisco office with that of Anderson & Lembke, after winning the consolidated U.S. account of Microsoft Corp.

And Mr. Sweitzer's role is a new one. McCann's creative director title had been vacant since November 1998 and Adam Kaufman, A&L's creative director, continues as a CD at the merged agency.


For Mr. Sweitzer, overseeing creative work on Microsoft's $230 million business is the key part of his new job. But the office also counts Del Monte Foods, Nestle Beverage Co., Silicon Graphics Inc. and the California Milk Advisory Board as clients.

"My first priority is to make sure existing clients and new clients get great work," he said. "On my watch, the work will be great-if that makes it into the story, that's good; then I have something to live with."

Mr. Sweitzer began his ad career at TBWA/Chiat/Day in Venice, Calif., in 1990. He spent six years there, working on accounts including Sony PlayStation, Reebok International and Energizer brand.

He moved to Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, in 1996 as co-executive creative director, but left in late 1997 and has had a variety of free-lance assignments since then.

One of his most recent stints was six months at Fallon McElligott, New York, where he filled in until the agency hired Executive Creative Director Jamie Barrett.

He liked the Fallon job, where he said he was given a lot of freedom in recruiting and hiring.

"I said, 'Are you sure you want me to hire people who will be working with someone else in a few months?' " he recalled. "They said, 'We'll go with your decisions. We trust you.' . . . It was a very unusual, yet really cool, project."

He didn't pursue a permanent position with Fallon because, he said, "I didn't want to live in New York."


Although he grew up on a farm in Missouri, Mr. Sweitzer has lived on the West Coast for more than a decade and wanted to get back home. He did another stint for BBDO Worldwide and then some work for McCann. That second relationship blossomed and led to his current job at McCann/A&L.

"I love free-lancing and stayed really busy with that. Freedom is great, but you kind of miss building a department," Mr. Sweitzer said. "For me, it's better to walk into a situation where there are a lot of challenges and opportunities."

He said those challenges-the merging of cultures and creating more great work for Microsoft and all the other clients-was "too good to pass up."

And even though Mr. Sweitzer has been known to wander in the past, the lure of

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