Wickersham Looks to Regroup




Systems Union, Other Wins Soften Losses of Bose, MediaOne
BOSTON–Undeterred by Bose Corp. pulling its business from Wickersham Hunt Schwantner, agency president Jim Schwantner insisted that layoffs will be unnecessary, pointing to recent account wins including Systems Union.
Bose, an audio components maker in Framingham, Mass., last week confirmed that it will cease working with the shop as of April 1. For seven years, Bose has been a flagship account at WHS, a Boston unit of Arnold Communications. Recently, however, the client has been pulling assignments in-house, and a move to consolidate its account internally was expected. Bose officials could not be reached at press time.
“They have been in a mode of transition for well over a year,” Schwantner said. “That business is covered” by recent wins such as Systems Union, a financial software supplier for which WHS last week broke a national brand-building campaign.
Cable television firm MediaOne also pulled its business from WSH after it was purchased last year by AT&T. At one time, Bose and MediaOne were believed to account for one-third of the agency’s $160 million in 1998 billings.
Schwantner de-clined to disclose current billings and revenue, though staffing has slipped from about 110 to 80. He attributed the decrease mainly to “attrition.”
Two weeks ago, Arnold senior management placed both WSH and Arnold Direct, the parent organization’s other direct marketing unit, under Schwantner’s command. The two entities have about 130 staffers combined. Schwantner said WHS will move forward by focusing on young companies (mainly dot.coms) and firms looking to reinvent themselves, working more closely with Arnold Direct where it makes sense to combine forces.
Schwantner cited the $5 million Systems Union relaunch as “exactly the kind of thing” the agency wants to do.
The shop has crafted ads themed “We’re there” for the White Plains, N.Y.-based company. One print version features a fish head on a plate with the text: “After learning to fit in at this dinner table [one saves the eyes for last], the local economy was an easily acquired taste.” Ads in the series prompt readers to visit the client’s Web site or call for details. The work is breaking in Fortune and other business periodicals.