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MIDWEST Agency Report Cards Musical Chairs

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Agencies changed ownership, and clients changed agencies, more than usual in 1994.
If there was a defining event in 1994, it may have been the acquisition of Campbell Mithun Esty"s Chicago office by David Cravit & Associates. Once one of Chicago"s creative bastions, CME had seen management turn over and clients move out. What kept it alive, if only as a string of initials, was a merger with a lesser-known shop. In the past, a CME would have been more likely to absorb David Cravit. In many ways, 1994 was a year mid-size shops took the spotlight and some larger shops took some lumps.
Were there notably hot shops last year? Perhaps one: W.B. Doner & Co.--the Detroit agency that isn"t part of a New York-based global network--with its amazing new business record of success. Doner"s streak included unflashy but solid retail accounts such as Musicland/Sam Goody, La-Z-Boy, Gibson Greeting Cards, First Bancorp and Venture Stores. Their run is continuing so far this year with a recent nod from Coca-Cola for promotion assignments.
While few other Midwest shops were hot, several got burned. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, provided the most surprising news with its loss of Anheuser-Busch, a client with which it had been nearly synonymous for 79 years. That wasn"t the only longstanding relationship to break down. Kmart placed its account in review after 26 years at Ross Roy.
That sword cuts both ways, of course. Leo Burnett Co., for example, cast adrift longtime client Unocal, and also parted ways with H.J. Heinz and Sony.
The Cravit/CME union was one of several that took place in "94, or were at least discussed.
N. W. Ayer"s Chicago office acquired the consumer business of Bentley, Barnes & Lynn. Griswold reacquired itself from Ross Roy. Fallon absorbed Duffy Design and struck a deal with Andy Berlin, fresh out of Omnicom, to open a New York office.
Tatham Euro RSCG courted Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, and Fahlgren thought it had a merger deal with Price/McNabb, but neither merger worked out. Ross Roy itself now is entertaining overtures from suitors, and True North Communications, the rechristened parent of Foote, Cone & Belding, seems to be having acquisition talks with just about everyone.
The face of the Midwest agency community is likely to change a great deal more in 1995. Additional mergers will go through, as Kansas City"s Valentine-Radford showed this month by swallowing Chuck Ruhr Advertising. For other shops, past acquisitions will be reversed (and past independence regained). For everyone, the year portends more tough decisions about how best to provide what clients want from agencies and what consumers need from advertising. Those are decisions that have always created change.--Scott Hume
Copyright ASM Communications, Inc. (1995) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED