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Euro RSCG Continues Turnaround

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CHICAGO Euro RSCG here recently added two accounts, further proof, agency executives said, that the office shaken two years ago by client and personnel defections has turned itself around.

The Havas-owned shop won a global assignment for Breathe Right nasal strips and has been named lead agency for Valspar, a maker of paints and stains. While individual budgets could not be determined, agency CEO Ron Bess said the wins put the agency over the $100 million mark in total new billings for the year.

The agency is on track to have double digit revenue growth by the end of the year, Bess said. He would not provide specific numbers.

"It makes for a lively, exciting time here," Bess said. "I really think we're on the verge of a new day in the business."

Bess, who joined the shop in May 2004, said the new-business streak is a testament to the shop's realignment that unified direct and database marketing with traditional advertising resources.

"I see it as a convergence of creativity and accountability," he said. "It's the cornerstone of what we do and what makes us valuable to our clients."

In addition to the two accounts, the agency this year has picked up assignments from Assurant Health, Barilla Pasta and the Bombay Company (each worth about $20 million, according to sources), as well as the estimated $5 million Culligan water-softener account and projects for retailer Circuit City.

Bess added that he's confident of the agency's chances of increasing DM work for Citibank, which is currently looking to pare its roster of direct shops.

It's a big change from mid-2004, when the shop was listing after losing Red Lobster's $100 million account, $45 million in business from Alberto Culver and the $20 million Hillshire Farms assignment.

Almost immediately after his arrival, Bess hired former Leo Burnett executive creative director Stefan Postaer as chief creative officer. Zain Raj, who had led new business at Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago, joined as chief marketing officer in September 2004. Bess also realigned marketing practices into one P&L and sought to foster synergies among various departments.

"When you have all of the people looking and working, you simply have a more cohesive organic approach to the business," Bess said.

He likened the approach to that taken by recently merged Interpublic Group agencies Draft and FCB, though admittedly on a smaller scale.

As with most transitions, there have been bumps. Former Euro 4D director Mark Blankenship recently left. His duties have been assumed by Raj and Joy Schwartz, who were promoted to executive directors at the agency.

"Mark was a good guy who did a good job for a number of years," Bess said. "But as we moved forward with the new unified approach, we felt there was a need to tighten up our management team and reward and recognize those who've done the most for our recent growth."

"They are working their way back," said one consultant familiar with the agency. "[But] I don't know that they've won that one or two accounts that would make people's heads turn around."

Moving forward, Bess said he hopes to garner more attention for the shop's creative product. "You always have to keep improving. You have to keep evolving and proving what you can do; that's the nature of the business," he said. "We were left for dead a year go by a lot of people. What we've done is bring in a half-dozen new clients and $100 million in new billings to get up and running fast."