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D'Arcy Doomed Under Lévy Plan

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Publicis Groupe is poised to unveil a sweeping reorganization that will dismantle 96-year-old D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles as a global network, and likely do away with the brand altogether, sources said.

The demise of the venerable brand had been widely predicted as the Paris-based holding company's $3 billion acquisition of Bcom3 neared consummation [Adweek, Sept. 23]. The deal closed Sept. 24.

Whether some vestige of D'Arcy will survive could not be determined, but the agency will not remain as a fifth global network in Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy's empire, sources said.

Despite D'Arcy's history and its size—it traces its origins to 1906, took in influential New York shop Benton & Bowles in 1985 and now has $10 billion in global billings and 6,000 employees—the network is the most expendable for Publicis, which is trying to maintain the holding-company model of two or three global networks.

Sources said Lévy met in New York last week with D'Arcy CEO John Farrell and president and chief branding officer Susan Gianinno. Neither were said to be happy after an initial meeting, and negotiations continued regarding their futures. Late last week, sources said both are expected to move into senior roles within Publicis Groupe.

Farrell and Gia ninno were meeting with clients last week , sources said. Farrell declined comment. Gianinno and Lévy, who had returned to Paris by week's end, could not be reached.

Lévy is expected to issue a memo to his agencies this week regarding his plans, sources said. A meeting of all Publicis agency CEOs is scheduled for the week of Oct. 21 in Paris, sources said.

According to sources, the plan is to convince D'Arcy's clients to move to Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett—the three major global networks left standing. Fallon, still a fledgling global enterprise, is not expected to be affected by the changes, sources said.

Sources said the following is Lévy's most likely scenario:

—D'Arcy's Procter & Gamble brands, its largest chunk of business, with global billings of an estimated $450 million, would be divided among fellow P&G agencies Burnett and Saatchi. D'Arcy's brands include Crest, Dawn, Folger's, Swiffer and Always.

—D'Arcy's $400 million General Motors business would be absorbed by Burnett. D'Arcy handles Pon tiac and Cadillac. Burnett is still working on Oldsmobile, which is being phased out, and also handles media planning through its PlanWorks unit.

—D'Arcy's General Mills business would likely move to Saatchi. Pillsbury was shifted from Burnett to D'Arcy last year after it was purchased by General Mills, a rival of Burnett client Kellogg.

D'Arcy clients that were reached indicated that they expect the same people on their accounts, although any reorganization will most certainly result in layoffs.

James Stengel, global marketing officer for P&G, said the company has been assured by Publicis that agency staffing on his accounts will be respected. "They've been very clear that they'll do what's right for us and for our brands, without disruption," Stengel said.

A General Motors representative has said, when asked about the possibility of D'Arcy's demise, that as long as conflicts are avoided and the automaker can work with its team of account people, it does not matter what form or name the D'Arcy Detroit office takes.

Other client officials could not be reached. D'Arcy's other clients include Phillips, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Heineken, Capital One and Roche.

The agency was founded in 1906 by William D'Arcy. In the early 1970s, it merged with MacManus, John & Adams in Detroit and Masius, Wynn-Williams in London. It absorbed New York's Benton & Bowles in 1985. That merger created the agency in its present incarnation. It joined Burnett in forming the Bcom3 Group in 1999.

Today, D'Arcy has 121 offices in 72 countries and generates almost $1 billion in revenue.

The agency has suffered client losses of late, and its creative reputation has remained unimpressive despite the addition in September 2001 of worldwide chief creative officer Lee Garfinkel. Garfinkel is close to the Heineken account but has yet to put his mark on D'Arcy's creative product.

Garfinkel's future and that of other senior D'Arcy executives in Lévy's new setup remained unclear last week.