Today both IPG and founder/former CEO and creative director Geoffrey Roche confirmed that Lowe Roche, the Toronto-based agency founded in 1991 and named AdAge’s International Agency of the Year in 1998, will close this fall after 24 years in operation.
The shuttering of the office, which currently employs less than 75 people, follows a series of top-level changes that started earlier this year: former CEO Monica Ruffo, who had run the office since Roche left in 2011, was forced out as two new internal executives were promoted to leadership roles in April. The larger IPG organization, which was preparing for the epic Mullen Lowe merger the following month, then effectively took over management duties for the office and went through a round of staffing cuts that included Lowe Roche’s ECD, head of production, office manager, several prominent account leaders and the entire financial team.
In other words, the end does not come as a complete surprise. The reasons behind it, however, differ depending on who you ask.
An IPG spokesperson gave us this statement:
“We are planning for Lowe Roche to close its doors by the end of this year. While never an easy decision, clients are asking for creative marketing solutions that work across a variety of channels, including emerging technology, data and analytics. The critical mass and greater range of capabilities required by agencies to meet those challenges have become increasingly important, and are driving this decision. We understand and respect the tradition of creativity and innovation that lived for many years at Lowe Roche, and are looking to find opportunities for its clients and employees at other IPG agencies in the market.”
Mr. Roche himself had a slightly different take on the closing.
The changes at his agency began in 2011, when he announced that he would be stepping down as founder/creative director and leaving the ad industry entirely to work on a series of startups. As he tells it, the process began to speed up when the IPG-led team came in to manage the office.
Roche calls that team “notorious for not paying attention,” telling us that the agency he spent 20 years building was “financially viable and creatively successful” when he left.
He also had a few more general statements about the issues affecting (or, more accurately, afflicting) the ad agency world. He told us that “it’s an embarrassment how many people concern themselves with awards,” adding that “what really got me excited, from the time we made used car ads, was sales” and comparing current agency executives who focus on industry honors to “lemmings going off a cliff.”
Roche claims that, when IPG “inherited” Lowe Roche, its representatives told him that “we’ll make the decisions.” He added, “Multinationals are not the way to go because it’s hard enough to make a 25-person agency nimble…they’re the General Motors of agencies.”
At the same time, he waxed nostalgic about his time leading Lowe Roche, saying, “I was lucky enough to have great people around me…tons of juniors who went on to work for the like of Wieden, etc.”
Roche’s proposed solution for the ad world’s ills may sound familiar to many of our readers. He told us that “Jay Chiat believed you should have massive change in your life and your agency every five years” and suggested that the agency business at large needs “someone to come along and say, ‘let’s completely reinvent this bloody thing.'”
We hear that Lowe Roche will officially close in November.