How Euro RSCG Caught Coke's Lee

Jones: 'I'm Quite Relentless When I Get My Mind on Something'

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NEW YORK ( -- David Jones finally got his star. After wooing Coca-Cola Senior VP-Chief Creative Officer Esther Lee for 12 months, the CEO of global ad network Euro RSCG sealed the deal, anointing Ms. Lee president-global brands and Euro's first-ever North American CEO. "This is as exciting to me as any new-business win," Mr. Jones said. "I'm quite relentless when I get my mind on something."
Esther Lee
Euro vision: Esther Lee (r.) says she and David Jones share beliefs about the direction of the ad industry.

Companion Piece:
Lee's Resume

In Ms. Lee, who was introduced to Mr. Jones through recruiter Gilbert & Co., Euro's chief executive saw a prospective colleague with a unique combination of small- and large-agency experience as well as five years' experience at one of the world's highest-profile marketers. "I spoke to a lot of people about this job, and many people wanted it," he said, "but I wanted only one person: Esther."

Accrued knowledge
At Coke, Ms. Lee, 48, oversaw the selection of and creative output from hundreds of ad agencies. She also developed the operational processes that brought the work from creative conception to delivery. "I've learned a lot of things at Coke, and I want to be able to apply them," she said, explaining the allure of returning to agency life. "At Coke, I wasn't just managing campaigns -- I was also managing functions to get campaigns running across the globe."

Mr. Jones initially offered her the North American CEO job, which, while intriguing, Ms. Lee said, wasn't quite what she wanted. "I felt he wouldn't be fully utilizing my experience if there wasn't a global aspect to the job," she said. Her dual roles will allow her to think about global brands for each of Euro's 42 clients and how to best draw out network resources for them -- whether accessing talent or providing the right tools and processes to support that talent. "David and I share a common belief about where the industry needs to go," she said, such as using consumer-engagement strategies to drive idea creation.

Thanks to her role at Coke, Ms. Lee is well-known within the marketing community. She's described as a deft student of internal politics and a quick study in understanding people's motivations. "I like and admire Esther's strength of will as a human being. I think that's intellectually attractive," said Andy Berlin, chairman of WPP's Voluntarily United Group of Creative Agencies. She's also a good hand at new business, said Linda Sawyer, CEO of Deutsch, where Ms. Lee worked in the mid-1990s (see box, P.3). But some executives criticize Ms. Lee for her tough management style. "She's got a low tolerance threshold," said one.

Growing Euro
Ms. Lee's two remits, according to her new boss, are to help build Euro into what he calls "the world's biggest creative hotshop" and to drive growth. Euro, which handles ExxonMobil, Alcatel-Lucent, Jaguar and Charles Schwab, among others, hit its stride globally last year with big wins including the $728 million consolidated Reckitt Benckiser business. But North America has suffered a bit this year with the recent loss of Volvo's $150 million global account, which was handled out of New York and London.

The addition of Ms. Lee, said agency consultant Richard Roth of Roth Associates, "will be a help. Esther is already known as a highly knowledgeable branding creative executive. I think clients will want at a minimum to see what the agency has to offer. She'll be a bit of a magnet."

Lee's Resume

B.A., Cornell University 1981

Internal operations consultant-management services, JP Morgan

1984: Account executive, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles

1986: Senior VP-account director, JWT, New York

1993: Exec VP-director of client services, Deutsch

1997: Co-founder, DiNoto Lee

2002: Senior VP-chief creative officer, Coca-Cola

2007: North American CEO and president-global brands, Euro RSCG Worldwide
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