The World: Fallon brings in Kerry Feuerman to stop the rot

The new creative director of the Minneapolis office is confident he can reverse the agency's recent fortunes.

Most new employees taking the creative reins at an agency struggling through a tough time can expect to walk into a storm of problems.

However, on his first day as the creative director of Fallon Minneapolis, Kerry Feuerman, a former Martin Agency vice-president who joins Fallon from the position of executive vice-president and group creative director at Leo Burnett Chicago, didn't realise he'd literally have to walk through a blizzard just to get to his office.

Just 48 hours before starting the job, he'd been in the spring warmth of Richmond, Virginia. But, thanks to a leaked story in The Wall Street Journal about him filling the vacant creative director role at the agency, he found himself making a new home in freezing Minneapolis before his agreed start date.

Minneapolis has a unique culture and feel. One former Fallon employee describes visiting the agency as being like walking on to the set of the Coen brothers' film Fargo. A number of former staff have had difficulty fitting in - such as Fallon's former executive creative director, for instance.

Feuerman, 54, replaces Paul Silburn, who was summarily fired from the role at the agency in January this year, after less than 12 months behind the desk.

Fallon concedes that, despite his obvious talents, hiring Silburn was a high-risk manoeuvre that didn't pay off. It argues that the agency failed to pick up any big pieces of new business during his tenure, and the British-born former TBWA\ London creative director didn't "fit in" with the culture of the agency. In a terse statement, the agency chairman, Pat Fallon, said: "Paul is a brilliant creative talent and a great guy, but I am not satisfied with our progress. I needed to make a change."

An industry commentator says: "American creatives need to be able to present to clients and run accounts. They're about the whole show and less about the fireworks of creativity. As good as Paul is, he would have struggled with this."

For his part, Feuerman is confident that he will resonate with the culture at Minneapolis. "My style fits right into this agency," he says. "I have an inclusive and decisive style. I listen, listen and listen, and then make a decision. Fallon's way is producing great creative grounded in a smart piece of thinking based on sound decisions."

Having grown up in New England and worked at Burnett in Chicago, Feuerman is also no stranger to snow.

But he joins Fallon at a difficult time. Silburn's sacking was just one in a series of difficulties to befall the agency over the past 18 months.

The closure of the New York office last July was a major blow. The Minneapolis headquarters, too, lost several big accounts. The biggest shock of last year was the departure of BMW, a Fallon client for the past ten years.

This was followed by a portion of the Sony account just five months after the agency had picked it up. In quick succession, it also lost Dyson, Lee Jeans and its place on the Pepsi roster. The US Virgin Mobile business, run from the New York office, went to Mother New York.

Feuerman, however, says he feels no pressure, despite being expected to pick up a "big, sexy account", consistently win new business and steer the agency back to being a creative powerhouse.

"It's been a tough year for the agency and it's easy to get into a downward cycle, but Fallon is already finding its way out," he says.

Despite the fact that he has been at the company for less than two weeks, he has already started instigating changes in the creative department - including moving desks and knocking down walls.

"I'll be looking to modernise the agency's capability by recruiting people who can work in all types of media," he says. "We need to get to a point where a pitch-winning idea can come from anywhere within the agency."

Feuerman has strong experience working on integrated accounts - during his time at Burnett, he ran the notoriously difficult US Army business.

He also has a good new-business record: at The Martin Agency, he led successful pitches including Saab and Quiznos Sub.

Pat Fallon says: "I've known Kerry for years and have long wanted him to be part of our team. He's the complete package and exactly what we need at this time."

And, crucially, Feuerman won't bear the burden of responsibility alone.

Fallon recently appointed Bill Westbrook, the former president and creative director of the agency from 1993 to 1999, to the position of vice-chairman; Feuerman will report to him.

Westbrook and Feuerman have worked together in the past, both at Earl Palmer Brown and at Westbrook Inc. The agency hopes Westbrook's experience and knowledge of the agency will provide Fallon with a steady hand so that the new creative director can make the necessary changes.

One Fallon employee believes these two appointments are the first step on the road to recovery. "It's as much about getting the right personnel in as it is about getting the right personnel out," the insider says.

"These appointments will give the agency a mature and stable management team that is sorely needed."

THE LOWDOWN Age: 54 Born: Connecticut Lives: Minneapolis Family: Two sons, one fiancee Favourite ad: The Economist "would you want to sit next to you at dinner?" Interests outside of work: There's life outside of work? Alternative career: Blues guitarist Last book read: The Complete Biography of Napoleon Bonaparte


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