SBC Communications' decision to split its advertising by brand between two shops was a crunching blow for longtime agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in St. Louis, and a possible portent of what could happen if SBC's acquisition of Ameritech is approved.
DMB&B lost creative duties for SBC's estimated $40-50 million consumer services account in the consolidation. It was the agency's largest account, representing perhaps one-quarter of total billings. While Charlie Claggett, co-managing director and chief creative officer of the agency, said he hopes to lessen layoffs by winning new business, sources said it is possible that as many as 30 positions could be cut as a result of SBC's exit.
Last week, San Antonio, Texas-based SBC lumped Southwestern Bell creative work at GSD&M in Austin, Texas, and Pacific and Nevada Bell duties at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. GSD&M is also the media agency of record for SBC, an assignment it picked up after the client dismissed DMB&B last year.
DMB&B's exit continues a three-year consolidation that has seen SBC's agency stable cut from more than 15 shops to six.
Unaffected in the consolidation were Rodgers Townsend in St. Louis, which kept SBC's business services account; Clarion Marketing and Communications in Greenwich, Conn., and RMG in Glen Allen, Va., which handled direct mail; and Hispanic agency Headquarters in San Francisco.
The consolidation was done to secure a clearer brand message in SBC's two markets, said Bill Morgan, managing director of brand management and advertising at SBC. "It's difficult doing it in a consistent manner when brands are spread across several agencies," he said.
That philosophy could suggest that if SBC's acquisition of Midwest Baby Bell Ameritech goes through, the Chicago-based company would keep its own creative shop, an assignment currently at Ammirati Puris Lintas here, observers noted. Carat ICG's Chicago office handles Ameritech's media buys.
Morgan acknowledged DMB&B's strong creative output for SBC, Indeed, one of the agency's spots for the client recently won a Gold Effie.
"It's just frustrating," said Gary Singer, co-managing director and chief operating officer at DMB&B. "Doing the work you get paid to do is not necessarily sufficient."