DDB entices top creative back for crucial McD's pitch

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As McDonald's Corp. nears a creative shootout among its top global shops, DDB Worldwide is bringing back a former creative heavyweight to lead its charge.

The Omnicom Group agency last week snared Jim Ferguson as exec VP-creative consultant on the business from executive creative officer for WPP Group's Y&R Advertising North America.

The 49-year-old Texan earlier was chief creative officer at DDB, Dallas, where in 1997 he helped the agency regain McDonald's adult-marketing account from Leo Burnett Co. with the "Did somebody say McDonald's?" campaign. He also spent a decade with Burnett, now owned by Publicis Groupe, and created some of the brand's most admired commercials, including the Larry Bird/Michael Jordan "Nothing but Net" spot.

"The big boy's back," said Bob Scarpelli, chairman of DDB, Chicago, and DDB's U.S. chief creative officer. "I always thought Ferg was one of the best writers on McDonald's."

Since Mr. Ferguson left DDB in 1999, three executives have led creative on the account, so his homecoming is considered a coup by observers. John Immesoete now spends most of his time on the Anheuser-Busch business; Mike Sheehan returned to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, to become president; and John Staffen now works on several accounts as a co-executive creative director at DDB, New York.

"Ferg and Y&R is like looking at Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizard's shirt," said Mr. Sheehan. "At DDB, he's like Michael Jordan in a Chicago Bulls shirt. He belongs there."

While Mr. Scarpelli had been looking for a chief creative officer for the Chicago office, he kept in touch with Mr. Ferguson, who suggested he return. Only in the last month did talks grow more serious following McDonald's global brand summit, where it charged roster agencies with creating the next big brand idea.

glad to be `home'

Mr. Ferguson was unavailable for an interview, but said in a statement that he's "very excited to return home-back to DDB and back to McDonald's."

Mr. Scarpelli has since suspended his search for a Chicago creative chief because he is "very comfortable" handling those duties for now. "If I brought someone in new to the agency or new to McDonald's, there'd be a longer learning curve," Mr. Scarpelli said.

While a start date for Mr. Ferguson is still being negotiated, it can't come soon enough for DDB as time ticks away until the April shootout.

Even with Mr. Ferguson on board, more than 100 creatives are submitting ideas. "Frankly, we have every creative person in the place working on McDonald's," Mr. Scarpelli said.

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