Merkley Hires Lowe’s Benz Team

Creative Trio Follows Mercedes Account; Will Replace Marty Cooke
NEW YORK–The arrival of the Mercedes-Benz account at Merkley Newman Harty has led to a reorganization of the shop’s creative department, including the departure of Marty Cooke and the hire of three creatives from Lowe & Partners/SMS.
Last week, MNH hired Marty Orzio, Andy Hirsch and Randy Saitta as executive creative directors overseeing the $270 million agency’s creative department. Each was a vp/group creative director at Lowe, working on Mercedes. Orzio, 42, was there 11 years; both Hirsch, 39, and Saitta, 41, logged 18 years at the shop.
The team replaces chief creative officer Cooke, who is leaving MNH. Sources said MNH had considered a change in creative leadership for some time. Although Cooke’s resignation last week to become executive creative director at M&C Saatchi [see story below] was characterized as “amicable,” sources cited philosophical differences with president Parry Merkley as one reason for the split. “He was on his way out anyway,” said one source. “Look at where the two guys came from; they just don’t approach things the same way.” (Merkley cut his teeth at big shops like Ogilvy & Mather, while Cooke spent a good portion of his career at the flashier Chiat/Day.)
MNH’s decision to import Lowe creatives to handle Mercedes, in effect excluding Cooke from its biggest account, accelerated his departure, sources said. Cooke declined comment; Merkley did not return calls.
The hiring of the Lowe executives raised some eyebrows due to their lack of management experience. They will be responsible for the shop’s creative output with a few exceptions. One is BellSouth, which will continue, at least for now, to be run by creative director Ken Wieden in New York and Rick Rabe, creative director, managing director in Atlanta. Lowe chairman Lee Garfinkel declined comment.
In a related move, sources said Lowe account manager Alex Gellert will also join MNH. He did not return calls. Gellert worked closely with ex-Lowe co-chairman Marvin Sloves, the key contact with Mercedes. Lowe’s parent, the Interpublic Group of Cos., is seeking $25 million in damages from Sloves in arbitration, claiming he helped the client “take its business away.” Sloves denies the charges.
Recently, Sloves filed for a delay, arguing some claims are not suitable for arbitration. IPG, in response, filed a claim in New York State Supreme Court as a backup in case the American Arbitration Association rules in Sloves’ favor. IPG’s general counsel declined comment; Sloves’ attorney did not return calls.