Y&R, Michael Patti Part Ways

Chief Creative Failed to Restore Agency's Luster

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Y&R's new CEO, Hamish McLennan, started 2007 with a bold move: announcing the departure of Michael Patti, vice chairman and worldwide creative director. In a terse, four-sentence press release, the agency announced today Mr. Patti left effective Dec. 31. There are no plans to replace him at this time, said an agency spokeswoman.
Surprising exit
His exit is surprising because Y&R's parent, WPP Group, was believed to have agreed to a rich compensation package to lure Mr. Patti, who joined the agency in March 2003 from his former employer, Omnicom Group's BBDO. According to industry rumor, the agency had agreed to a hefty severance package in the event that he was fired from the agency. In fact, one Y&R insider said WPP made a payout in the millions of dollars to cover the cost of his severance. A WPP spokesman did not respond to a request for comment at press time.

"This exemplifies what Hamish is all about," the insider said. "In the new Y&R, there's nowhere to hide. You've gotta deliver."

Mr. Patti could not be reached at press time.

Joined with dual roles
Though a star during his 18-year tenure at BBDO, Mr. Patti failed to live up to expectations at Y&R that he would help restore luster to an agency that had fallen on hard times. He joined with dual roles, as chairman-CEO of Y&R, New York, and as the network's worldwide creative director when he started in 2003. The following year he abandoned the New York responsibilities and was named vice chairman. One of Mr. Patti's first efforts after joining Y&R was for Burger King, which pulled its account after less than one year. In 2005, Y&R in North America lost some of its high-profile clients, including Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar, Computer Associates and Sony Consumer Electronics.

At BBDO, New York, he rose to the position of vice chairman and senior executive creative director, working on some of that agency's high-profile clients, including Pepsi and General Electric, and his work was highly regarded and awarded. Pepsi work, for instance, won 12 Lions from the International Advertising Festival at Cannes, according to a press release issued by Y&R at the time he was hired. He was also part of the team that created the post-Sept. 11 campaign to promote tourism in New York, starring celebrities including Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal.

Mr. McLennan, promoted to the top role at Y&R this summer, is charged with reinvigorating the network, particularly in North America. Ann Fudge, chairman-CEO of Y&R parent Young & Rubicam Brands, retired from the company as of Dec. 31. There are no plans to replace her.
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