Cutbacks Rock McCann Unit Thunder House

The interactive boom has gone bust for Thunder House Online Marketing Communications, where roughly a dozen employees have been laid off.
Recent account shifts and general economic uncertainty were blamed for the cuts at the agency’s offices in Cambridge, Mass., and Palo Alto, Calif., sources said.
Precipitating the layoffs was the decision in September by Thunder House parent McCann-Erickson in New York to resign its AT&T business for Sprint, sources said. AT&T had been one of Thunder House’s largest clients, and the departure of that business led to a centralization of media planning and buying functions in Thunder House’s New York office, sources said.
McCann representative Stuart Alter confirmed the layoffs and said no additional cuts are planned for McCann’s other interactive offices. He declined to elaborate on the reasons for the layoffs or reveal how deeply each office was slashed. Thunder House president Joe McCambley could not be reached by press time.
Staffing in the Cambridge office, believed to be the largest Thunder House outpost, is now 26. Alter said the office will remain open.
Thunder House was started two years ago by Larry Weber, chairman of Weber Public Relations Worldwide in Cambridge. Weber sold the interactive agency late in 1996 to McCann as part of that company’s acquisition of the Weber Group. Thunder House was then merged with McCann Interactive’s 13 offices. The combined agency reported billings and fees last year of $24 million. McCann is owned by Interpublic Group of Cos. in New York.
While online yellow pages company Switchboard was its largest client two years ago, Thunder House has since added USAir, Black & Decker, L’Oreal, Unilever and Tiffany & Co. to its roster. The shop was also named interactive agency of record for Pandesic.
The Cambridge office two weeks ago won an award at the third annual Massachusetts Interactive Media Council awards for client Durex.