Campbell Ewald Detroit Goes Through a Round of Layoffs

By Patrick Coffee 

The Detroit headquarters of the agency formerly known as Lowe Campbell Ewald confirmed today that it had to undergo a round of pre-Christmas layoffs this week.

Here is the official statement from CEO Jim Palmer.

“We are restructuring to address a shift in the nature of services we provide our clients. As we move from traditional platforms to the new and evolving plethora of content marketing solutions, we need to be able to provide effective and efficient delivery at all points of the consumer journey. Unfortunately, this plan includes parting ways with a small number of Detroit employees. This is never easy and we sympathize deeply with all who are affected.”

There’s disagreement among sources about how large the affected number of employees is, with some calling the move “huge” while Palmer’s note downplays the total.

Recent Campbell Ewald news has been mostly positive. The agency won Travelocity, Covered California and Henry Ford Health System (all of which will be run out of Detroit) along with Country Inns & Suites by Carlson and Empire State Development Corp., or the group behind “I Heart New York.”

C-E also made a few big strategic hires, swiping ECD Jo Shoesmith from Leo Burnett and naming ex-CPB leader Wojtek Szumowski as director of invention strategy.

Palmer and president Kevin Wertz spoke to Crain’s Detroit Business last month about their future plans for the organization, highlighting a “heavily customized paper and digital system to map customer relationships for their clients” which they credit for recent wins and noting that “this has always been a profitable agency.”

You may recall that the agency lost the U.S. Navy recruitment business to Y&R earlier in the year and then appealed to the federal government, claiming that the Navy had “unfairly” awarded an account worth an estimated $457 million over four-plus years to the agency that offered the cheapest contract. After the Government Accountability Office denied that appeal in September, Campbell Ewald turned to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims with the same complaint. C-E also plans to aggressively pursue the Army account, which remains with McCann for the time being after the armed forces extended that agency’s contract through 2017. (The related review, however, “slogs on.”)

The current status of the Navy claim is unclear, though the org now claims that the dispute is hindering its ability to develop a new slogan and delaying “all work on long-term strategy.” Navy Times reports that the most popular entry in an internal slogan-writing contest was “America’s Navy: We’ve got the watch.”

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