JWT & Tonic Jolts Bay Area Agency Landscape Merged Shop Will Combine Digital and Traditional Advertising

The San Francisco ad business experienced another aftershock last week as J. Walter Thompson an nounced it is combining its San Francisco office with Tonic360 to form JWT & Tonic.

The merger is part of the evolution of JWT’s relationship with Tonic 360, which it acquired in October 2000. The interactive shop had been operating as a stand alone unit of JWT North America since the acquisition.

JWT West CEO Peter Stranger will oversee JWT & Tonic and JWT Los Angeles.

“[The merger] seems to be an opportunity to combine the strengths of both offices,” said Stranger, who will continue to shuttle between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

He added that Tonic360 has “tre mendous digital ex perience,” and “JWT has strong corporate branding experience.” The merger, he said, will enable both shops to broaden their offerings.

Day-to-day management of the merged shop will be handled jointly by Tonic360 general man ager Kevin Burke, who be comes managing partner, general manager of JWT & Tonic, and JWT San Francisco general manager Iwan Thomis, who takes over as managing partner, director of stra tegic planning.

By joining the two shops under one roof, Stranger said, the challenge is to “grow the shop by expanding clients organically and through the acquisition of new business.” However, with “a difficult economy and so little business to pitch,” he declined to give specific growth goals.

No layoffs are planned, although Stranger could not rule out the possibility that redundancies could be discovered once JWT staff move into Tonic360’s office on Front Street later this month.

JWT & Tonic is expected to have combined billings of $220 million ($130 million from Tonic360) and 100 employees, 40 from JWT.

Clients from the Tonic360 side include Sun Microsystems (handled jointly with JWT New York) and Macy’s West. JWT SF clients include Pacific Gas & Electric, Cheap Tickets and Diageo/United Distillers & Vintners.