CEA’s L.A. Story Still Troubled

Campbell-Ewald Ad-vertising’s bid to become a player on the West Coast has been stymied by a lack of success with new business, leading to layoffs that sources said have left just enough staff to handle its two active clients.

Among those let go was Debra Samuels Wurzel, hired in May 2000 to run the office as executive vice president and managing director. Agency representative Mark Benner confirmed Wurzel was laid off in June and that others have been let go, but declined to give a number.

Sources said, however, that layoffs reached across disciplines and that entire departments, including media and account planning, were eliminated.

The office’s main account is regional Chevrolet business. It also handles the $45 million Farmers Insurance account.

The office is being run by executive creative director Debbie Karnowsky along with Jim Klock, who heads up the Farmers account. Karnowsky and Klock were transferred to the L.A. office 15 months ago.

Benner said there are no plans to close the office and refuted rumors that Karnowsky may return to CEA’s Warren, Mich., headquarters.

Chevrolet requires CEA to have a West Coast office. The Farmers business was moved there from Warren to give the outpost some heft. The only other client is Asisana Airlines, which is inactive. The office has lost work from Zyan DSL and Careerpath.com.

The outpost has struggled with new-business pitches. It made the finals in reviews for the $20 million Mail Boxes Etc. and the $4 million El Torito accounts and the $25 million Jenny Craig creative-only business. but it failed to close any of those deals.

Jeff Scott, CEA’s Warren-based president of integrated account service, said that Karnowsky, who was not available for comment, remains committed to the office. “We’re committed to long-term growth and committed to being a presence in L.A.”