JWT Hopes Its Reorg Will Shed Dusty Image

J. Walter Thompson is reorganizing the staff on its Ford Motor account into “hot shops,” with names like Liquid 35 and Mind Racer, in an effort to shed its stodgy image, spur more creativity and get a faster turnaround on work.
The revamp is designed to make the agency “more nimble” while also maintaining the integrated capabilities of a large shop, said Mike Gonyea, JWT’s executive management director.
The moves were internally motivated and not a result of prompting by Ford, president Peter Schweitzer said. The restructuring affects about half of the agency’s 600 employees in Detroit. It will not result in any staff reductions, he said.
Ford-dedicated staff will divide into about a dozen shops by areas of expertise. “Rather than have people who generalize and work on everything, we are developing little groups that specialize in different areas,” Gonyea said.
For example, in the creative department, the shops will be broken into “skill and passion sets,” he said. Creatives will rotate among the groups, spending a year at each, said Bruce Rooke, executive creative director.
Each shop will have its own personality and subculture. The design and print group has christened itself “Red Hammer,” while the broadcast group is now “Liquid 35.”A digital group has not yet chosen a name. A fourth group, “Mind Racer,” includes some senior managers who will serve on a creative review board.
The approach has been tried before with varying results: Leo Burnett is expected to abandon its mini-agency structure after two years because divisions among clients were not as clear as they initially appeared, sources said. That agency also used mini-agencies to shake itself up.
JWT is also redesigning a new floor of its building to counter the “accounting firm” atmosphere of the other office areas, Rooke said.