25% Cut at JWT Chicago

CHICAGO WPP Group’s JWT here has begun laying off approximately 25 percent of its staff in the wake of losing roughly $200 million in Kraft business, an agency representative confirmed.

The shop is cutting “less than 30 staffers” in the Chicago office, the representative said. The shop had employed about 120 people.

Last month, Kraft moved creative duties on its $40 million Lunchables account to Interpublic Group’s DraftFCB here, and put brands such as Oscar Mayer meats, Grey Poupon mustard, Kraft Singles and Ritz and Triscuit crackers (worth about $165 million in media spending) into review. The Northbrook, Ill., company is considering both roster and nonroster shops for those brands.

The account moves were not surprising. The company has steadily shifted business away from WPP Group-owned JWT over the past few months. In March, Omnicom shop DDB in Chicago joined the roster, landing creative duties on Kraft’s $20 million Miracle Whip account. Last year, Kraft-brand mayonnaise moved to independent agency mcgarrybowen, which also added salad dressings and BBQ sauce.

In the wake of the shift, the agency network has adopted a “Team Kraft” response to the shift. JWT CEO Bob Jeffrey said the network would be handling its remaining business under a “Team Kraft” model. “Since our relationship with Kraft goes back to the 1920s, the loss of any brands is a disappointment,” Jeffrey said in an announcement at the time of the loss. “But we look forward to reinventing a way of working with Kraft around the world.”

While JWT lost most of its Kraft business (it will keep Wheat Thins and the global Philadelphia cream cheese business, as well as several international brands), the shop handles about $100 million in business from Nestle, including its Toll House brand, Stouffer’s “red box” frozen foods, Butterfinger, Stixx and Treasures.