Garfinkel had been offered a position by Publicis CEO Maurice Levy to head up the worldwide creative efforts of sister agency Publicis, but is said to have turned the offer down. Instead, he is to join rival Omnicom Group agency DDB as chairman and chief creative officer.
"It was less about wanting to leave there and more about coming here," Garfinkel said in a New York Times interview. "A position like this is one of the dream jobs."
The move will come as a blow to Publicis Groupe. In an interview with Campaign magazine in October, Levy said: "I tried to hire Lee when he left Lowe for D'Arcy but he was already committed. Although we didn't buy Bcom3 just to get Lee, we did want him badly."
Garfinkel's decision could also put doubt on whether or not Publicis will take up the £30m Cadbury account. The chocolate brand had awarded the work to D'Arcy just as it announced it was closing, and is reported to have said that it would go to Publicis as long as the pitch team worked on the business. Garfinkel was part of that team.
Publicis Groupe said it would close uncompetitive agency D'Arcy in October, following its acquisition of the Bcom3 Group. Most of the work the agency handled, including Procter & Gamble, has been passed to other Publicis agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett.
One of the most high-profile creatives in the advertising business, Garfinkel has the power to bring clients with him when he switches agencies. Heineken moved its £35m US account from Lowe & Partners to D'Arcy in February, after Garfinkel and other Lowe executives left the agency.
Ken Kaess, president and chief executive at DDB, said: "Now more than ever, those with the most talent will win. You want to put the best players on the court that you possibly can, and you can't have too many great players."
Garfinkel joined D'Arcy as chief creative officer in August 2001. He was originally a stand-up comedian, and worked at the New York agency Levine Huntley Schmidt & Beaver and later BBDO. In 1992, he joined what was then known as Lowe Lintas & Partners, rising to the position of chairman and chief creative officer.
Key staff members at D'Arcy deemed indispensable to keeping major accounts were asked to move to positions at the other three big Publicis shops.
Garfinkel is one of only a few former D'Arcy executives to turn down new jobs within Publicis. Susan Gianinno, president and chief branding officer at D'Arcy, moved to become chairwoman and chief executive at Publicis Worldwide USA; John Farrell, president and chief executive at D'Arcy, has agreed to become president and chief executive at the specialized agencies and marketing services division of Publicis.
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