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NEW YORK-Creative Director Jeff Weiss is leaving Margeotes Fertitta Donaher & Weiss and is expected to join McCann-Erickson Worldwide to set up an autonomous and unorthodox unit.

Although Mr. Weiss is being vague about his exact plans, industry executives say the 40-year-old executive has been tapped by McCann Worldwide President-Chief Operating Officer John Dooner Jr. to form a creative-only project shop.

McCann executives wouldn't comment on the new entity, code-named "Working Dog." But the agency is known to have invested upwards of $5 million to set up the group to handle projects for McCann clients as well as companies outside the fold.

"The reality is that the agency business has changed, and large multinational agencies need to look at other ways to structure themselves to meet differing needs of clients," said one executive familiar with the venture, expected to be up and running later this summer. "It's a structure that says the [Working Dog] agency will never grow, it will never handle clients, it will only work on creative projects."

That structure sounds like John H. Tinker & Partners, a creative and strategic talent "think tank" McCann set up in the early 1960s and one that launched Mary Wells' career. It also resembles the Creative Artists Agency unit that does creative for Coca-Cola Classic.

Although there are a handful of independents in the same mold-like the Ad Store, formed last year by Paul Cappelli, a former McCann executive-Working Dog is believed to be the first free standing creative-only group formed by a mega-agency.

From McCann, it's also a surprising acknowledgment that traditional agencies need to explore new ways to compete.

Mr. Weiss' group is expected to initially consist of six full-time creatives-drawn completely from outside McCann-but will expand and contract with free-lancers according to project load. The group won't include account, media or research functions.

It will report to McCann through Vice Chairman Peter Kim and is likely to be involved early with the AT&T and Coca-Cola Co. accounts. At Margeotes, Mr. Weiss oversaw work on accounts including Cole-Haan, Bausch & Lomb, Godiva Chocolatier, USF&G Corp. and CBS Broadcasting.

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