Doner’s Direct Course In Baltimore Leads To Layoffs, Account Shifts

Last Tuesday was a black day at W.B. Doner in Baltimore as the shop, in the throes of restructuring into a “brand response” agency with a direct marketing focus, laid off 24 staffers.
Former executive vice president and creative director John Parlato will move to the agency’s headquarters in Southfield, Mich., with at least two general service accounts: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Arby’s and Bush Beans of Knoxville, Tenn. Parlato will be a creative director in Southfield and will work on several accounts.
Doner Direct’s Scott Rasmussen will head the creative department in the Baltimore office.
For several months, agency officials denied repeated rumors that Doner’s Baltimore operation was becoming a direct shop. More recently, they denied that any general service accounts would be moving to headquarters. Sources said that the agency’s transformation had been widely debated and only recently firmly decided. “It was really up to the clients,” said Alan Kalter, chairman of Doner. “If they didn’t want us to change, we wouldn’t have.”
Because of the tumult at the agency, rumors have also been rampant that it might close. “That is totally, absolutely untrue,” said Tony Everett, general manager in Baltimore. “There was never a thought about shutting it down. We’re winning new business.”
In fact, Doner quietly won the $5-10 million Vienna, Va.-based Teligent account two weeks ago.
Rick Hanna, Teligent’s senior vice president, sales and marketing, said the firm became aware of the changes at Doner two weeks ago and welcomed the news. “What we need right now is very direct marketing oriented,” Hanna said. “It fits with our strategy perfectly. It really reinforces what we want the Baltimore office to do for Teligent. For us as a client, it’s positive news.”
Hanna also hopes to capitalize on Doner’s overall branding and creative reputation. He said Teligent executives were impressed with the branding that Doner did for Ikon. Ikon is one of the few, mostly general service accounts that will remain in Baltimore. –with Katy Eckmann and Sloane Lucas