No contracts had been signed as Campaign went to press but an announcement is expected shortly. Commenting on Bell's move, Peter Cowie, the business development director at JWT, said: "We're in the final stages of negotiations to sign him up. We've been speaking to a number of talented creative directors and Nick is at the top of that list."
The news marks the second time Bell, 42, has been linked with a high-profile job outside Leo Burnett. In 2001, he was approached about taking Charles Inge's former role at the then Lowe Lintas, but at the 11th hour decided to stay put (Campaign, 6 July 2001).
JWT has been trawling for a creative director since December when it revealed that the incumbent of nine years, Jaspar Shelbourne, was being promoted to a worldwide role (Campaign, 13 December 2002).
Bell joined Leo Burnett in 1995 from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. Together with his former partner and joint executive creative director, Mark Tutssel, he has been responsible for improving the agency's creative reputation.
One major high point was winning three gold Lions at Cannes in 2001.
However, the joint roles had evolved quite differently over time, with Tutssel assuming more of an international role. In 2001, he left to join Leo Burnett in Chicago, marking the end of a successful partnership.
Last February, Bell's role was expanded to that of group executive director when the new London group chief executive, Bruce Haines, announced a restructure of the agency. The changes meant that the creative directors of the different Leo Burnett divisions, such as Leonardo and Spring, would work as a collective under Bell.
Bell was unavailable to comment about his expected move to JWT as Campaign went to press.
Last week Bell was elected president of D&AD, beating EHS Brann's Patrick Collister to clinch the position. In this role he plans to launch an education initiative for young clients to help them understand how to buy creativity.
Meanwhile, JWT's sister WPP agency, Ogilvy & Mather, and Grey are still searching for new creative directors. The positions have been vacant since September and October respectively.
Recently Saatchi & Saatchi hired Tony Granger from Bozell New York to replace Dave Droga who moved to take up the role of worldwide creative director at Publicis.