NEW ENGLAND: Agency Report Cards Law of Averages

The ordinary was the order of the day in 1994.
Average is as average does. In 1994, most New England agencies followed that maxim. Among the region”s barometer agencies–the 12 with billings large enough to qualify them for Adweek”s annual report cards–big wins and breakthrough creative were sorely lacking. Even big losses seemed less prevalent than in years past. Down-the-middle, routine, garden-variety performances ruled the day.
Which made those shops that registered strong billings growth or had compelling reels all the more notable. Houston Effler Herstek Favat led the way among large shops, while such specialty players as direct-marketing giant Bronner Slosberg Humphrey in Boston, pr hot shop The Weber Group in Cambridge, Mass., and on-line agency Modem Media in Westport, Conn., also flourished. Pagano Schenck & Kay, Boston, once again parlayed its creative reputation into big account gains and awards show gold, but has yet to break into the Top 12 in billings size.
But back to the averages. Almost half of the agencies graded received C”s, a dropoff for a region that just a few years back was lauded for its up-and-coming boutiques. Leonard/Monahan, Providence, was a case in point. L/M was Adweek/New England”s agency of the year in 1987. Its fall from the creative pinnacle has been difficult to watch. As the year began, agency president Fran Kelly moved to Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot, Boston, marking the second time in less than six months that L/M lost a partner. Then national creative showcase Keds left the agency, and the region, for New York”s Kirshenbaum & Bond.
Six shops received B”s. Not a bad showing until one considers the B”s include the lowest-ever grade for Mullen, a four-time Adweek/New England agency of the year. The Wenham, Mass. shop finally failed to meet, let alone surpass, its own high standards. Perennial players Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos and Rotando Partners also scored in the B range, but their performances in “94 seemed lacking when compared to previous years. Hill, Holliday”s direct division did pull in the shop”s most notable new client, Humana. And Rotando opened a Boston office to mine new business and service its largest client, Ocean Spray. But number two client Tetley left due to conflict, making the packaged goods specialist more dependent on cranberries than ever.
Only Houston Effler recorded an A–an A- at that.
Maybe the continuing wave of interactive advertising will energize the community in 1995. Maybe it”ll take a few mergers and acquisitions to rouse the natives. One thing”s for sure: some shaking out seems necessary before some much-needed shaking up can occur. –David Gianatasio
Now we all know how Mullen year by Mullen standards but still a good year all in all.
Overall Grade: B +
Overall Billings: Up 8% to $123
Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1995) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED