JWT’s Woodall’s creative rejuvenation basic to goal of giving “a small agency a big future”

J. Walter Thompson/Chicago is “a little agency that has a big future,” says top creative Graham Woodall, who was charged with that future when agency president Barry Krause hired him last June.

In an advertising town that’s lost its pizzazz, lacks heroes and suffers an inferiority complex, Woodall & Co. are likely to change all that.

That’s mainly because Woodall and Krause are committed to redefining the JWT/Chicago brand, one of the ad industry’s oldest, whose strength has always been in great service, but whose creative reputation has been ho-hum.

“We’re small and we can do that,” says EVP/ECD Woodall of the changes ahead. If he sounds confident, it’s because he has an impressive track record in reeling in new business as a result of revitalizing the creative product.

Since the late ?80s, the world has become a small place and brands go to where talent is, Woodall says. “If you can prove you have the goods, the spark and the passion, advertisers will follow.”

“If you can prove you have the goods, the spark and the passion, advertisers will follow.” That’s what happened when Woodall was charged with rejuvenating D’Arcy/New York’s creative product. After spending six of his 12 years with the agency as regional ECD for D’Arcy Asia Pacific, he was brought to New York in 1997.

The flagship office’s business was stagnant. Like JWT, it couldn’t point to kick butt ads and shelves of industry awards. Woodall reinvigorated the creative department by setting a new course, hiring fresh, new teams from the U.S. and overseas. He built freestanding design and music departments and revamped broadcast production and the print studio.

By the time he left in 2003, when Publicis bought D’Arcy, he had helped boost business 40% by winning new accounts, and the agency was reaping major advertising awards. (Woodall himself has 100-plus.)

Darcy’s decline wasn’t the loss of business, Woodall comments, rather, it suffered from complacency. “When you get bigger the feeling is we’re big and work less hard and lose passion, which is also an issue.”

EAD Adam Regan joined JWT from D’Arcy Paris

In rebuilding JWT’s creative department, Woodall has brought in a colleague from D’Arcy: executive art director Adam Regan, whom he calls “a real smart conceptual thinker.”

Like Woodall, Regan is British, and also has worked at agencies on three continents. He left D’Arcy with the Publicis acquisition and was head of art on Pan European Nissan/Paris when Woodall invited him to Chicago.

Woodall says it wasn’t difficult to persuade Regan. “I said, ?come to an agency where you can do some really great work and do some rock ?n’ roll.”

“He and I had a little rock ?n’ roll band in New York, the Big Richards. Adam was bass, I was on drums. In the next month we’ll find a guitarist and resurrect the band.”

Woodall cites his mission as “stabilizing things.” He knows in terms of staff they have the right people and systems. “I’m a believer in having systems that help us work properly,” he says.

“Once they’re in place, then everyone can work like crazy and take advantage of every opportunity. I don’t know of any successful person who doesn’t work hard.”

J. Walter Thompson is located at 900 N. Michigan; phone, 312/951-4000.