Y&R taps Cimino to replace Winter as top creative

Bill Cimino, Y&R’s new creative chief

People come.  And people go.  And at Young & Rubicam/Chicago, one chief creative officer came and another went in very short order this week.  Very short order Indeed.

In a bizarre public relations gambit that somehow seemed to fit the strange, walled-fortress mentality that permeates the Y&R offices in Chicago, the agency issued a press release announcing that chief creative officer Bob Winter had departed “to work in another market” and that Bill Cimino, an executive creative director at DDB/Chicago, would soon be taking on the job vacated by Winter.  

A day later that mysterious “market” referred to in the Y&R announcement became much less so when Crispin Porter + Bogusky said it was bringing in Winter to its Miami outpost to head up that shop’s creative department.

CP+B global creative officer Rob Reilly talked about Winter as a perfect fit for Crispin — an ad man with the right creative chops, plus the apparent ability to inspire young creatives to be more than they thought they could be.  Who knew?

Reilly is certainly entitled to see in Winter whatever he wishes to see. But what does Winter’s track record really suggest Reilly is getting? And by the way, we’ve heard from sources that Crispin was desperately in need of some sort of creative leader in Miami — just one problem area at an agency that has hardly been the same creative beacon it was before Alex Bogusky walked out the door to pursue other interests, such as making a polar bear commercial debunking sugar-filled soda pop.

Winter did not have easy time at Y&R

Bob Winter, now leading CP+B’s creativeBut did Crispin find its new Bogusky in Winter?  What can be can be said with certainty is that Winter did not transform Young & Rubicam/Chicago into a creative hotspot in the two short years he was there.

Granted, it was an especially tough slog for Winter because Ken Erke, who preceded Winter in the chief creative post at Y&R, bailed out just before Sears yanked its brand advertising account from the agency and moved it to McGarryBowen/Chicago, where it has languished.

That left Winter in the unenviable position of having to fill a big hole in the client roster — something he did with the help of agency president Kary McIlwain — by bringing in several bits of business, such as Famous Footwear and Dave & Busters, a chain of bar and game venues.

Y&R/Chicago’s only big catch, relatively speaking, was BMO Harris, which went looking for a new agency after new marketing management at parent Bank of Montreal in Canada insisted the financial institution had to have a new ad agency. Standard procedure these days, don’t you know.

Unclear what Winter’s role was at Y&R

But putting aside the few new business wins at Y&R/Chicago, the bigger question here is:  What did Winter do to distinguish himself and the agency creatively during his short tenure there?  We couldn’t think of a single campaign emanating from the shop while Winter was in residence that created a buzz nationally. Or locally for that matter.

Was Winter simply unable to inspire the troops?  Was the account roster not to his liking?  Was he spending more time looking for a way out of Y&R than he was developing a great creative product?  Who knows?  Winter didn’t respond to a phone call yesterday.

But whatever was the problem at Y&R, Winter managed to get out of town and find a new berth at a shop struggling to regain its creative mojo.  What no doubt helped Winter in his efforts to get out of Chicago was the one thing that no one can deny him — his close involvement with Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius” radio campaign.

As everyone knows by now, “Real Men” won all kinds of awards. No one is going to take that away from Winter.  It was great work. But does one superlative campaign a creative legend make? Not in our book.

Maybe Winter will once again find the creative spark that was absent at Y&R in his new agency home in Miami. Or maybe not. 

At DDB, Cimino turned out delightful McDonald’s spots

Meanwhile, that leaves Bill Cimino to pick up where Winter abruptly left off at Y&R.  The one thing that struck many local observers about Cimino is that he’s pretty much an old-school ad guy, meaning he doesn’t come to his new role spouting all the stuff one hears from the digitally-focused creative types who absolutely believe that is advertising’s one and only future.

Instead, Cimino recently has been focused on turning out some delightful story-driven TV commercials (remember those?) for burger behemoth McDonald’s.  “Joe and Frank,” a spot about two old codgers bickering and flirting with the ladies in a McDonald’s restaurant, is classic old-school McDonald’s advertising.  And people love it.

Cimino, for the record, said he’s happy to be going over to Y&R, where he maintains there is “great momentum.” 

Well, the momentum may be great the way Cimino sees it, but we don’t think the same could be said for the creative output.  Cimino could change that — that is, if he sticks around long enough to really effect change.

But as we have seen quite recently, people come and people go. Especially at Young & Rubicam/Chicago.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com