Energy Boost

After six weeks of talks, Pfizer and Pharmacia Corp. executives told the J. Walter Thompson crew pitching the new est arthritis drug that there was good news and bad news. The bad news: The $70-80 million account was going to Deutsch. The good news: Client executives had decided to shift the $100 million Celebrex account from Leo Burnett to JWT.

“The team was very, very impressed,” says Pharmacia’s Sharon Fairley, executive director of consumer marketing, praising JWT’s enthusiasm and command of the category. “[JWT] understood the patient population, the consumer we’re going after.”

The mid-July win was the agency’s biggest account coup last year. Adweek’s Eastern Agency of the Year also saw its dedication to client services pay off handsomely, landing an additional $35 million in new assignments from Pfi zer—which acquired 40-year JWT client Warner-Lambert in 2000—and more work from PepsiCo/Lipton and 75-year client Kimberly-Clark Corp. (Last week, Domi no’s Pizza, a client since ’96, awarded the shop its $100 million-plus account.) The gains helped boost New York revenue by 11 percent, to $202 million.

“Our first obligation to our business is to take care of our current clients,” says worldwide CEO Peter Schweitzer, 62, who set the tone for a productive year shortly after arriving in New York last January. “A, you keep them, and B, you’ll get growth from them. It’s a helluva lot cheaper than making fancy new-business pitches, and you get rewarded for the job you’re doing.”

At the same time, the shop pulled off tough packaged-goods assignments with flair. A cinematic, flame-throwing circus act illustrates the benefits of heat-activated shampoo ThermaSilk, breathing life into a category known for generic prod uct demonstrations. Police hosing down angry demonstrators make one protester happy when the spray of water produces Lipton Cold Brew.

Agency president Bob Jeffrey points to the infusion of outsiders to explain a new, quicker pulse at JWT. Filling long-vacant key posts was a priority for Schweitzer, previously the top executive on JWT’s largest account, Ford. “Just fucking do it,” he wrote on a wipe board during one of his first meetings with worldwide agency executives.

Mike Campbell, 46, took the New York executive creative director post in February. Another former BBDO executive, Pat Corry, was promoted to director of client and business development, and former Lowe exec Kevin Wassong assumed a larger role as head of Digi tal@JWT. Col leen Gowl, 53, a veteran of Foote, Cone & Belding, joined as global business director on Pfizer and head of consumer healthcare.

“I’ve always taken the stand that it only takes a handful of people to start a revolution,” says Jeffrey, 48. “If you get the right people, then it just falls into place. That’s what has happened.”

Schweitzer, an incisive character with a crinkly eyed smile, fits right in with the “impatient thinkers,” as Corry terms the New York team.

Campbell and other executives credit Jeffrey, who made a name for himself as a partner in New York boutique Goldsmith/ Jeffrey, for creating a more aggressive, hands-on culture. “He understands what entrepreneurship is first hand,” notes Corry, 38.

Jeffrey in turn cites Merrill Lynch, a client since 1998, as a driving force behind JWT’s transformation from an “account man’s agency” driven by proc ess to a “billion-dollar startup,” as Camp bell puts it. Because the financial-services company is in a “fast-paced, competitive category,” it has forced the shop to “move much more quickly,” says Jeffrey.

The client twice called on the agency during two crises last year. On March 13, after the stock market had plummeted for several days, Merrill Lynch asked JWT to help calm investors. The agency ran a full-page newspaper ad the next day. The second call came after Sept. 11, when the company’s 9,000 staffers fled their World Financial Center offices. JWT crafted a newspaper ad titled “Com passion, Courage and Strength,” one of the first corporate messages to appear following the terrorist attacks.

During a time of “chaos and dislocation,” says Paul Critchlow, svp of communications and public affairs at Merrill Lynch, the agency team was “calm” and “professional.” With hustle and smarts, JWT execs “have delivered on their prom ise,” he says, adding that Jeffrey has been “a marvelous point of continuity—he inspires confidence at all points of contact.”

That sentiment is shared by many longtime JWT clients. Last summer, JWT’s top executive on the Pfizer business, chief operating officer Mary Bag livo, left for Panoramic Communi ca tions. Jeffrey, who added the title of North American president in his fourth year at the helm in New York, took a supporting role on the account to worldwide director in charge Ellen Hyde, 41, who continued to manage the client’s daily needs. Jef frey filled the five-month gap between Baglivo’s departure and Gowl’s arrival, a period when JWT launched its Listerine Pocket Paks breath-freshener strips and Lubriderm Skin Renewal facial cream. “The transition has been seamless,” says Paul Sturman, vp of marketing at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

In a year when the economy prompted clients to shift big global accounts, JWT held steady. Losses were limited to Kel logg’s, which shifted $40 million in cereal brands to Leo Bur nett; Pepsi’s $10 million Aquafina water-brand account; and Unilever’s $4 million All detergent account.

Hyde, whose tenure at JWT predates Jeffrey’s, describes the JWT today as “a small-office mentality at a big agency.” Adds Campbell, “There are no passengers—everyone has a hand on the oar.”

STATISTICS

BILLINGS
Up 10 percent to $1.4 billion (est.)
Revenue: Up 11 percent to $202 million (est.)
Win/Loss Pitch Ratio: 4 out of 6
Accounts Won/Media Budget*: Pfizer/Pharmacia’s Celebrex/$100 million Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle Rollwipes/$30 million
Pfizer’s Listerine PocketPaks/$20 million
Pfizer’s Lubriderm Skin Renewal/$15 million
PepsiCo/Lipton’s Matika teas/$2-5 million

Accounts lost/media budget*:
Kellogg’s cereals/$40 million
PepsiCo’s Aquafina water/$10 million
Unilever’s All detergent/$4 million

Highlights
BBDO’s Mike Campbell filled top creative post in New York; Peter Schweitzer succeeded Chris Jones as worldwide CEO; New York president Bob Jeffrey added title of North American president; Pat Corry, director of Unilever North America, became director of client and business development in New York.

*Only largest accounts included.
Sources: Adweek, agency reports and CMR.