Fallon taps Merkin as NY creative head

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Fallon has snared a hot property in Ari Merkin, the writer behind BMW Mini, American Legacy's "Truth" and the Grand Prix-winning "Lamp" Ikea campaign, as creative director for its New York outpost. While he worked on those efforts at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Mr. Merkin, 33, was most recently VP-associate creative director at Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York.

Mr. Merkin succeeds Kevin Roddy, who moves on to Havas' Euro RSCG MVBMS, New York, as partner-executive creative director.

For David Lubars, Fallon North America president-executive creative director, Mr. Merkin is a perfect fit whom he's itching to introduce to clients. "I think we have similar taste, work ethic and ambition to really give the best value to clients, and also to go beyond the restrictive formulation of traditional media."

"There was a great chemistry," agreed Mr. Merkin, who will join the agency as early as late July. "David and I have a lot in common. We both have very bad noses, granted his is a lot worse than mine, and I felt like I had known Anne [Bologna, president of Fallon New York] for 15 years. I think she's going to make a great partner." (See Player, P. 20.)

That chemistry was the clincher for Ms. Bologna, who compared it to that of a Vulcan mind meld. "Ari is a thinking man's creative, and he also can execute like the dickens," she said, noting that her nose is the smallest of the three. "I was spoiled in Minneapolis by having [a strong connection with] David and the planners. I had this partnership, this spiritual connection, and we felt like brother and sister. That's what I see in Ari."

Apparently there's nothing wrong with Mr. Lubars' nose for talent.

Mr. Merkin originally planned to be a comic-book writer after graduating from the Parsons School of Design. However, he landed a writing job in 1992 at Grace & Rothschild, run by former DDB creatives , where he worked on Land Rover. He still draws for storyboards sometimes, but said he now mostly applies that talent to drawing caricatures on a MagnaDoodle.

"I feel like my career began in the '60s because I was learning the lessons of the forefathers of creative advertising," he said. From there he went to Hempel Stefanides, before moving to Crispin in Miami. He called Cliff Freeman, his most recent employer, a "wonderful man" whose agency will continue to do great work.

Momentum in New York

"I feel my career has really run the gamut," said Mr. Merkin. "I saw Fallon as an agency that encompassed all of that history and all of those values. All the elements have come together and they have the people, they have the resources and the clients and I think there's a great deal of momentum picking up in New York."

As for Mr. Roddy, who has won back-to-back One Show awards, the jump to MVBMS is " an opportunity I couldn't pass up because it's the next thing for me to do and I really needed that challenge."

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