No Longer In TBWA Chiat/Day’s Plan, St. Louis Office Set To Close

In the end, it probably didn’t matter that TBWA Chiat/ Day’s St. Louis office had failed to gain much new business this year.
The four or five regional accounts the shop unsuccessfully pitched weren’t going to save the outpost, which no longer fit into the company’s national strategy, said Bob Kuperman, president and chief executive officer for TBWA Chiat/Day North America. The agency last week said it will shutter the St. Louis office.
“I just don’t think regional offices, other than those that are there to service [for example] the Nissan account, are part of the plan,” Kuperman said.
“We didn’t fit into where TBWA Chiat/Day wants to go, the kind of brand [it] wants to be, which is a national brand,” said Mary Tetlow, managing director of the St. Louis office.
The St. Louis office’s fate may have been sealed when Kuperman took over North American operations early this year. Bill Tragos, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of TBWA International, is a St. Louis native, and over the years he has been a stalwart supporter of maintaining an office there. Tragos did not attend a meeting in St. Louis last Monday in which Kuperman informed the agency’s 40 employees that the shop will be closed at year’s end, Kuperman said.
Tetlow will move to TBWA Chiat/ Day in New York, while creative director Duncan Milner will return to the agency’s office in Venice, Calif.
Tetlow and Milner took over the St. Louis operation in November 1996 following the sudden departure of Lloyd Wolfe, chairman and creative director, and Bill Freeman, president and chief operating officer.
At that time, the office claimed billings of $75 million, but current billings are pegged at $25 million. The agency lost key client Boatmen’s Bancshares (purchased by NationsBank) and its Taco Bell media account.
Remaining clients, who will be serviced through the end of the year, include Ameren, a Missouri and Illinois energy company, and the Missouri Athletic Club.