Indies Incorporate Global Reach

Southeastern and Southwestern independents are hoping that Worldwide Partners’ restructuring from a partnership to a corporation will help them to compete globally.

“Instead of being loose partners, we’re now owners of a real corporation that works together to integrate all kinds of services for our clients,” said Bill Burton, president of Mithoff Burton & Partners in El Paso, Texas.

Worldwide Partners was founded as the American Advertising Agency Network in 1938 by a small group of agencies looking to piggyback skills and services by serving, in effect, as each other’s branch offices. Over time, the partners evolved into valuable research and on-the-ground resources. For example, Mithoff’s Hispanic efforts benefit from expertise gleaned from Worldwide Partners’ members in Mexico and Central America.

In Greenville, S.C., Carlos Jiminez, chairman of The Leslie Agency, was able to tap CreatAbility’s insights into the Miami market to help launch its Mayfield Dairy Farms business.

“Instead of saying to our client, ‘We know Florida,’ Jiminez said, “the real truth was we needed people in the market who know what they’re doing.”

By 2000, Worldwide Partners had expanded to 90 agencies with 5,200 employees and $4.2 billion in billings.

“As advertising got more global, clients needed single entities to handle advertising on a multinational, even global basis,” said Stan Harris chairman of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Harris Drury Cohen and a Worldwide Partners board member. “That called for a new structure, amorphous and culturally correct. We went from being members to stockholders uniquely positioned to handle global clients.”

Southeast shops in the restructuring include Archer/Malmo, Memphis, Tenn; CreatAbility in Miami; Harris Drury Cohen; The Leslie Agency; O2 Ideas, Birmingham, Ala.; Siddall, Matus & Coughter, Richmond, Va; Richardson, Myers & Donofrio, Baltimore; and The Tombras Group, Knoxville, Tenn.

In the Southwest, agencies belonging to Worldwide Partners include Mithoff, Zehnder Communications in New Orleans and Mangan Holcomb Rainwater Culpepper in Little Rock, Ark.

“Sawyer Riley Compton now has 90 offices around the world,” said Richard Riley, director of global marketing at SRC in Atlanta. “That makes me a major player.”