The move comes as Y&R, once one of Madison Avenue's high-profile agencies, is struggling. In the past year, it has shrunk considerably due to the loss of several of its largest accounts, including Burger King and Computer Associates. Another account, that of AT&T Corp., all but stopped marketing to consumers (and is now in the talks to be acquired by SBC Communications). And the agency is battling to retain advertising duties on Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar brand.
In January, Y&R's New York office laid off approximately 40 employees as a result of its financial performance.
Mr. McLean, 50, began his career at Y&R in Toronto and worked in various positions within the agency for the past 16 years. In his new role, Y&R's six area managing partners, who each run offices in Chicago; Detroit; Irvine, Calif.; New York; San Francisco; and Toronto, report to him.
Y&R has not had a CEO for North America in several years.
The next year will be critical for Y&R's U.S. operations. North America is the world's largest advertising market, and home to many of the world's largest marketers. In the 1990s, prior to Y&R's 2001 purchase by WPP Group, Y&R in New York was one of Madison Avenue's top agencies, with more than 500 employees and more than $200 million in revenues.
Today, its New York operations are far smaller, with a little more than 300 employees and a client roster less impressive than a decade ago, when it handled global marketers such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Citibank and Kraft Foods. While the agency has won some new accounts in the past year, including Toys R Us in New York, major wins of headier times have been elusive.