SAN FRANCISCO - After insisting repeatedly that it was committed to staying in San Francisco, DDB Needham Worldwide last week said it will sell its troubled office here to Salt Lake City-based EvansGroup.
EvansGroup will merge the DDB unit with its small, $16-million S.F. outpost, creating a shop with $48 million in billings and a staff of 50. The two offices believe they have no account conflicts and expect to retain most if not all of their current employees. DDB/SF president Julio Deulofeu will become ceo of the combined agency and Mick Cummins, president and ceo of Evans-Group/S.F., will become president and coo.
DDB Needham West president Alan Pando said the company hadn't been 'looking to sell.' Nevertheless he said S.F. 'wasn't strategically part of our mix. We want to concentrate in larger markets.'
DDB, which first made inroads here with agricultural clients, struggled through the 1980s to develop a client base in high-tech fields and banking, but the loss of its $20-million First Nationwide Bank account in the late 1980s was the turning point from which DDB wasn't able to recover. Earlier this year, the shop lost another $6 million in billings, leaving (as its major clients) Orchard Supply Hardware, Caltrans and retail media for 20th Century Fox and Disney.
Though he praised Deulofeu's work since he took charge in February, Pando blamed the company's long-term problems on a lack of entrepreneurial management. 'You can't be a business as usual agency and survive in San Francisco,' he said.
For EvansGroup, the acquisition is a chance to increase its size and profile. 'It's difficult in this town to be taken seriously if you don't have enough billings to attract people's attention,' Cummins said. But others point out that in this town, where vibrant agencies have sprung from little more than the seeds of creative spirit, size may not be a critical factor. 'The fact of the matter is DDB was a $50-million agency not long ago and it was having a tough time getting into reviews,' a competitor said.
As for EvansGroup, it has been in this market since 1960, and even many ad veterans were unaware of its presence. Evans' clients include the HMO, FHP, the mall-based photo studio Expressly Portraits, financial services company PMI, medical equipment maker Acuson and Value Rite pharmacies.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)