The Player: Orzio aims to get creative with a difference at BBDO

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As Marty Orzio settles in as creative chief of BBDO Worldwide, Chicago, the onetime English teacher gets his first solo shot at running a creative department and testing some long-brewing theories about creative development and leadership.

Earlier executive creative director at Omnicom Group sibling Merkley Newman Harty & Partners, New York, Mr. Orzio left Merkley in October 2001 to pursue other interests following a management change at the agency. He dedicated himself to laying bricks at home and writing a yet-to-be-published 40-page essay about training creatives.

As a former teacher who made his way into advertising by way of a direct-marketing writing job at Wunderman, New York, Mr. Orzio has developed a reputation for mining a seminal idea from minute details and then expressing it through subtle-yet-elegant storytelling. A pair of Cannes Lions-one bronze and one gold-for Mercedes-Benz serve as bookends on his desk.

However, the soft-spoken writer said he became frustrated over the lack of professional development in the creative side of the business. "Creative departments are almost run on a contingency where there is empowerment until right before the client meeting and then it's a gang bang," he said. "It's not enough that a great piece of work goes to the client. It's a 100% A+ when great work goes to the client and the team did it themselves."

Mr. Orzio, whose main goal is to elevate the creative profile of the agency within the BBDO network and the industry, already has met with clients, including Wm. Wrigley Jr., and Bayer, and attended meetings for the review for the Fortune Brands' Jim Beam spirits account.

Already he's made an impact at BBDO, setting up team discussions of hot creative reels, a standing Tuesday department meeting and ground rules for working together.

BBDO Chicago President-CEO Tonise Paul likes Mr. Orzio's team approach. He was the only candidate who showed his own reel, then that of his group's. "I don't know if I've ever seen that before," she said.

"My sense is he will encourage those of us who will be leading the department to be as humane and helpful and inspiring as we can be," said Gayle Pollack, senior VP-group creative director.


Slim and tall, he oozes a sense of empathy that is increasingly foreign in this business. He relies on child psychologist Jean Piaget's philosophy of guided self-discovery as a management tool.

"He thinks the worst thing you can do is give someone the answer," said Kyle Daley, creative services director at Merkley Newman Harty, New York.

On his bookshelf, management titles like "Organizing Genius" and "Good Work" rest between Walt Whitman and Dale Carnegie. The latter is "still the best management book out there," he said.

"I want people to say this creative department is run differently," Mr. Orzio said. "The proof is not there, but it will be."

Fast Facts

Name: Marty Orzio

Age: 47

Now: Exec VP-chief creative officer, BBDO, Chicago

Challenge: Create a different but world-class creative department

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