New Lowe Unit Crosses Disciplines

NEW YORK Lowe has launched a turnkey consultancy in the U.S. that will dissect client business problems, propose marketing solutions and offer an array of resources to deliver them.

The new unit will cross disciplines, tapping the services of Lowe and sister entities Initiative Media, DraftWorldwide, Zipatoni and other specialty shops within Interpublic Group [Adweek, Sept. 23]. It also will use outside experts, such as Wall Street analysts and economists, as needed.

Leading the operation, which is still unnamed, is Steve Harty, former president of Merkley Newman Harty & Partners in New York. At Lowe, he takes the title of managing partner and reports to worldwide CEO Jerry Judge.

“Integration is the agency process. This whole thing is from the other side of the lens-looking at it from client needs,” said Harty, 51. “Our goal is to increase the average amount of overlap between what agency holding-company resources can provide and the types of [client] assignments we can tackle intelligently and capably.”

Lowe’s consultancy, like others recently introduced at rival shops, seeks to regain the turf that agencies have lost in recent years to management consultants. Last year, WPP Group’s J. Walter Thompson tapped Rob Scalea to start a business-consulting practice, and Omnicom’s BBDO hired Brett Shevack to provide clients with brand ideas beyond traditional advertising.

Lowe tested its concept in smaller markets (London and Stockholm, Sweden). After talking with clients and search consultants in the U.S., “We very quickly formed the conclusion that we needed to institute the ability to help clients understand how to define total communications strategy,” Judge said.

Plans for the U.S. model began last January and were solidified in May after a two-day brainstorming session among the participating shops that was led by Lowe U.S. CEO Paul Hammersley. Hammersley subsequently led the search that produced Harty, a seasoned account management executive who before Merkley held senior posts at Ogilvy & Mather.

“He had a combination of intellectual smarts to kind of figure it out, personal skills to navigate through the obvious complex issues and salesmanship in order to sell it,” Hammersley said.

Several Lowe clients already have shown interest in the consultancy, including Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and General Motors, Hammersley said.