Player Profile: A sharp wit and modesty mark Immesoete at DDB

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After accepting the top prize for the Radio-Mercury Award for an unprecedented second consecutive year, John Immesoete has much to smile about.

The VP-group creative director at Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago, accepted the award for his team's work on the "Heroes/Mr. Pickled Pigs Feet Eater" spot for client Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light. Mr. Immesoete served as creative director and one of three writers on the spot. He also had been a writer on the prior year's grand-prize-winning effort.

Now there's buzz the top creative on the McDonald's Corp. and Bud Light accounts is being considered for a promotion after U.S. Creative Director Bob Scarpelli was given the added title of chairman of DDB Chicago mid-June.

Those close to the agency said Mr. Immesoete could soon be given the top creative spot in the Chicago office, a post that was originally being considered for Mike Sheehan, then executive creative director on McDonald's, who left the agency last August to become president of Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide Partners, Boston.

So far, nobody's talking, particularly Mr. Immesoete, who is as modest as the "everyman" he targets in campaigns for the polar-opposite brands. One could say he is well-suited to the mystery of it all.

A film-noir buff who looks like he could take down any of the wiseguys in his favorite books with a single blow, Mr. Immesoete fidgets in clear discomfort when talking about his accomplishments.

"He's very modest and reticent of his accolades," said wife Chalcea Immesoete, a talent and music negotiator at the agency whom he met almost five years ago on a Bud Light project.

"He doesn't have a huge ego," agreed Mr. Scarpelli, who noted that Chalcea has mellowed out her husband. "He doesn't even know how talented he is." (Mr. Scarpelli served as chief judge on this year's Radio-Mercury Awards, a radio-industry award program, but said he was blocked from voting on his own agency's work.)

Known among his friends for a self-deprecating yet sarcastic wit, the 36-year-old Mr. Immesoete has a reputation for sending e-mails as clever as his radio copy.

It was his humor that helped the onetime Second City improvisation student capture the attention of Mr. Scarpelli, who hired Mr. Immesoete in 1996 from VP-creative director at hometown rival Leo Burnett.

"I liked his sense of humor, and we do a lot of humor on beer," said Mr. Scarpelli. Plus, timing of the move was impeccable. DDB was gearing up for a match to retrieve the adult business of longtime client McDonald's from Burnett. Mr. Immesoete knew the account well; McDonald's was his first client when he began his career in 1986.

Mr. Immesoete did work on DDB's winning pitch that ultimately had people asking, "Did somebody say McDonald's?" But the writer landed with a different team working on Budweiser.

After Mr. Sheehan's departure left a void on the McDonald's team, Mr. Immesoete volunteered to do double time on accounts. "It's a good mix and match," he said. Now he's working to make Ronald McDonald as hip as Bud Light's Cedric.

Mr. Scarpelli said clients are noticing Mr. Immesoete's ability to deliver "A-plus work" time after time. "It's not an easy place to get accepted by [Anheuser-Busch Senior VP-Marketing] August Busch IV," he said.

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