Former Chairman-CEO Edward Ney, 73, is expected to take on the duties vacated by Y&R Inc. President John McGarry Jr., who retired last year.
In another high-profile move, the company has hired Jim Ferguson away from DDB Needham Worldwide to serve as president of Y&R Advertising (see story on Page 2).
Although a title for Mr. Ney has yet to be determined, he will handle strategic client relationships. Currently, he's serving as chairman of the board of advisers at Y&R's public relations unit, Burson-Marsteller.
A Y&R spokesman declined to comment.
Until now, Mr. McGarry's responsibilities were split among current Chairman-CEO Peter Georgescu, Chief Operating Officer Ed Vick and Vice Chairman-Chief Client Officer Linda Srere.
Mr. Ney ran Y&R from 1970 to 1984, and is credited with developing the agency's integrated "whole egg" strategy. Although the idea was slow to win client acceptance, the past six years have proved extremely successful for Y&R's approach. Global giants including Ford Motor Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., Danone, Campbell Soup Co. and Citibank have all consolidated their accounts under the Y&R umbrella.
Y&R's decision to bring Mr. Ney back is the latest of several agency-veteran rehirings.
J. Walter Thompson Co. recently turned to Charlotte Beers, a veteran client strategist who retired as chairman-CEO of WPP Group sibling Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, to be the agency's chairman.
Two years ago, McCann-Erickson Worldwide coaxed Stan Rapp back to the agency arena as worldwide chairman-CEO of McCann Relationship Marketing.
SAVVY INSIDERS CRUCIAL
At a time when client relationships are making and breaking big deals, a savvy insider can be crucial to an agency's success.
"Relationships never stopped being important to agencies, but many agency heads haven't had the kind of experience with clients that people like Charlotte Beers and Ed Ney have," said Abe Jones, managing director of AdMedia Corporate Advisors and a former president of Foote, Cone & Belding. "There's so much turnover at the client in management that you have to camp out on the doorstep to get the attention of the new guy."
In laying the groundwork for the current integrated strategy at Y&R, Mr. Ney was aggressive in his pursuit of business extensions. Completed under his watch: the purchases of Marsteller Inc., Burson-Marsteller, Sudler & Hennessey, Wunderman Ricotta & Kline and Cato Johnson, as well as the agency's joint venture with Dentsu.
After Mr. Ney left Y&R, he served as U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Bush administration.
"Ed Ney was a real renaissance man in the agency business," Mr. Jones said. "He excelled at working with clients and selling business, but he was also good at