New Era Dawns at Deutsch


What was once Lowe in the U.S. is now Deutsch. Last week's move of about 100 Lowe staffers into Deutsch's New York office marked the end of the Lowe name domestically and the beginning of Deutsch's life as part of a global network.

The move came two months after parent company Interpublic Group merged the two shops, making Deutsch, which also has an office in Marina del Rey, Calif., the U.S. arm of Lowe Worldwide. And, after weeks of anticipation, packing and dual-agency social gatherings, the change was immediate: a call to Lowe's longtime New York phone number was answered by an operator who said, "This is Deutsch," references to Lowe's U.S. offices on its global Web site had been rebranded "Deutsch," and the suffix to e-mail addresses of Lowe staffers became ""

During a brief combined agency staff meeting last Monday, Deutsch chairman Donny Deutsch emphasized that there are no Deutsch people or Lowe people, only us. In the same meeting, New York office CEO Val DiFebo expressed confidence that the combined operation would succeed, although she acknowledged that staffers have to prove it and all eyes are upon them, said sources. No Lowe executives spoke during the half-hour gathering, which took place in Deutsch's "Commons" area and was followed by a buffet breakfast.

Naturally, the move resulted in some layoffs -- about 20 percent of Lowe's staff was let go, according to sources -- and some top Lowe executives, including North American chairman and chief creative officer Mark Wnek and new business development chief Donna Wiederkehr, aren't part of the combined operation.

Wnek, who held his dual roles for four-and-a-half years, is said to be mulling his next move. He declined to comment when reached on Friday.

The merger isn't without client fallout either, though conflicts between the two shops were few. Lowe's $25 million Zicam cold remedy account has gone back into review, just seven months after the client hired the agency, and Lowe's $100 million Lunesta sleep aid business is looking for a new home at another IPG agency, said sources. Both accounts conflicted with Deutsch New York's larger Tylenol business, resulting in IPG siding with Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol, whose major media spending last year exceeded $160 million, according to Nielsen.

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