Jack Neary to leave advertising for one year

TBWA\Toronto CCO to focus on his memoir, but plans to come back

For the past 20 years, Jack Neary has wanted to pen the story of his early life and, as of July 1, he’ll step away from TBWA\Toronto to do so.

Currently the agency’s chief creative officer, Neary is leaving to devote his time to writing his book. “To get the job done, I really need to take time away from this business and focus intensely on that,” he told Marketing on Friday.

Neary is giving himself a one-year deadline—and hiatus from the ad industry—to complete a “decent first draft.” He added that he has some interest from book publishers.

“I don’t have the luxury of working on this indefinitely; I will be coming back into the advertising business,” he said. His intention is to come back to TBWA, but he acknowledges it might not be to the same role. “I would think it would be wrong for the company to freeze itself waiting for me… Maybe I’ll be the receptionist,” he joked.

“I actually think he’s not friendly enough [for that job], so I told him he’s not going to get that,” said TBWA\Canada and Latin America president Jay Bertram.

TBWA\Toronto currently has four creative directors that drive its accounts and businesses day-to-day, and Bertram said he is currently looking within the agency’s network to fill Neary’s absence, adding that he’s happy with the team currently in place and the work it’s doing, “so I don’t feel any sense of urgency that we’re in a panic situation—not at all.”

What role does he envision Neary coming back to in a year? “One of Jack’s great strengths is he’s one of the best account people we would have, so who knows, he may be an account person… It could be new business, it could be a whole bunch of things,” said Bertram.

Meanwhile, Neary said he’s taking a Norman Mailer approach and keeping mum about his book’s details.

“It’s fundamentally bad luck to discuss a work in progress because it compromises the creative act,” he said, but sums it up by saying the memoir will largely cover his “misspent youth.” He said he had “an unusual upbringing—some good and bad; I think it will be an interesting story.”

While the book may touch upon some aspects of advertising, he said “it’s not a book about advertising. It’s a book about growing up and how to deal with that.” Neary grew up mostly in Calgary.

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