Tony Stern Joins Phelps as Chief Creative Officer

April 18, 2017

Creative director on global advertising campaigns for Apple, Smirnoff and Google will direct storytelling for pioneering integrated marketing agency.

Succeeds Hall of Fame Chief Creative Officer Howie Cohen, who is retiring after leading award- and business-winning campaigns for five decades.

Phelps, one of the nation's largest 100% employee-owned agencies, has tapped Tony Stern, creative director and writer on global campaigns for Apple, Smirnoff and Google, among others, as its new chief creative officer. Stern succeeds Howie Cohen, a two-time CLIO Hall of Famer who created the iconic Seventies Alka-Seltzer ads ("I can't believe I ate the whole thing" and "Try it, you'll like it"). Cohen is retiring after a career that spanned five decades, the last two of them with Phelps where he led defining campaigns for such brands as Petco, Tahiti Tourisme and City of Hope.

Stern has helped build many of the world's largest brands – including Adobe, Electronic Arts, Google, Hyundai and Smirnoff – for several of its most renowned creative agencies, including David & Goliath, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and J. Walter Thompson. He has worked inside major advertisers, creating thoughtful advertising and content for such launches as the iPad Air and the Google.org global initiative. Most recently, he has played creative consultant to advertisers, agencies and tech startups, building a broad perspective on new opportunities in the creative space.

"The combination of new technologies and emerging media platforms gives even the smallest advertisers an opportunity to create impactful campaigns," said Stern. "At Phelps everyone is in the room from the beginning, attacking a business problem from all sides together and searching new ways for the right ideas to live. That's what drew me in, and I think it's why Phelps has so many uncommonly longstanding client relationships."

Cohen took a principal role in the extensive search for his successor, because Phelps requires a creative leader who is comfortable thinking across marketing disciplines and working with other specialists throughout the process of developing a campaign. At Phelps, specialists from strategy, creative, PR, media and a variety of digital disciplines work together on client-based teams to create and bring to market fresh thinking, with everyone seeing and shaping what the others are doing in real time.

"Tony matches the heartbeat and personality of Phelps," said Cohen. "He understands how advertising, public relations and social media in all their forms actually work in the world, and he's comfortable working with all of the specialists to make them work synergistically. His work with Smirnoff, as an example, was a knockout because it got people around the world sharing their experiences. That's in line with Phelps, where we put everyone together on work from the beginning, because the linear approach to communications can't keep pace with today's world."

Founded in 1981 as an integrated marketing communications agency, Phelps operates an open, multidisciplinary collaboration that's unusual in the agency business. Client teams take on all work together, involving relevant disciplines from research to paid and earned media. Every week, the entire agency comes together to discuss client work openly, often with clients involved in the process. And the work stays up on The Wall as an opening for continual contribution from anyone in the agency. The result is a legacy of campaigns with tangible business results for clients that stay with the agency, sometimes for more than 20 years.

"We've built an environment where anyone can come up with ideas and grow them collectively, and Tony fits as a successor to Howie," said Ed Chambliss, president. "He's quiet, reserved and respectful, and he chimes in with the one sentence that brings the idea together and inspires the whole team."

The transition continues positive changes for Phelps, which moved to a 25,000-sq.-ft. office in Playa Vista, Calif., designed for collaboration to, as Phelpsters say, "put more brains on the client's business."

"Howie had nothing to prove when he came to us 19 years ago," said Joe Phelps, founder and CEO of Phelps. "Over these years we've all grown to love Howie for his good heart as well as his talent. We will miss him. And thanks in a large part to his persistence we found another great talent in Tony. Our clients will be thrilled when they see his work."

About Phelps Phelps creates and delivers integrated messaging and media campaigns for category leaders such as Bosley, City of Hope, Dunn-Edwards Paints, Learn4Life schools, Natrol vitamins, Panasonic, Public Storage and SunPower Corp. Founded in 1981 and 100% employee-owned, Phelps ranks as one of the largest independent agencies on the West Coast, and is regularly listed among the Best Places to Work in Los Angeles. Phelps is a member of the ICOM global network of agencies. Visit us at www.phelpsagency.com and follow us at www.facebook.com/PhelpsAgency and @phelps_agency.

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