The trial grouping of Lowe, Bozell and Mullen is expected to become permanent early next year and could be followed by other realignments among independent-minded, midsized shops owned by Interpublic Group, sources said.
The linkage is designed to create a "quasi network" of agencies under Lowe and give it resources outside its New York headquarters, much in the way McCann-Erickson counts Fitzgerald & Co. and Austin Kelley as agency resources in Atlanta, said sources.
The brands will remain separate, but revenue from Mullen, Bozell and Lowe will be combined and reported as a unit to IPG.
The grouping of the three agencies reverses some of the decentralization of last year's IPG reorganization, which divided the company's operating units into four divisions, including The Partnership, a collection of some 15 shops overseen by IPG vice chairman David Bell.
The groundwork for the latest move was laid in June, when Mullen CEO Joe Grimaldi and Bozell president Tom Bernardin, who previously reported to Bell, were redirected through Lowe. They now report to Lowe CEO Jerry Judge.
While some speculated that the move was the first step toward a three-way agency merger, others cautioned that conflicts—chiefly Lowe's Diet Coke account and Bozell's "Got milk?" business—prevent such a step.
Grimaldi declined comment. Judge and Bernardin could not be reached.
Before the IPG reorganization, a handful of domestic agencies were housed under a loose federation known as the Lowe Group. Those shops included Mullen, the former Long Haymes Carr, Dailey & Associates and The Martin Agency. The latest realignment is a step toward rebuilding that group, said sources.
Last week sources said other free-standing agencies remaining in The Partnership—which includes Suissa Miller, Martin and Dailey—are eyeing similar alignments with other networks and are expected to make proposals to IPG CEO John Dooner. Such realignments would, in effect, dismantle The Partnership.
Talk of the realignments comes as Bell shifts his attention to Advanced Marketing Services. Bell's shift, which was discussed early last week at a two-day gathering of IPG's executive council in Miami, was acknowledged Friday by an IPG representative, who said Bell would play a role in the expansion of the division, now run by CEO Larry Weber.