Agencies of The Year: Global Winner 1999 – Killer Instinct

John Dooner’s “We will not be denied” attitude has helped keep McCann-Erickson on top of the World
Not a huge budget. Not a mammoth global brand. Yet McCann-Erickson was intent on winning Avis Rent A Car’s $20 million account, a client it considered to have an outstanding creative heritage. It took a long time. Some 14 years, says a beaming John Dooner, chairman and CEO of McCann-Erickson WorldGroup, but the agency got it.
Nina DiSesa, chairman and chief creative officer of McCann New York, made Avis her personal mission, participating directly in the pitches with her creative team and with New York chief operating officer and general manager Eric Keshin.
“We had some fun with them,” recalls Keshin, who says the pitch team altered the client’s slogan to “McCann tries harder” during the Avis sessions. “This has been something we believe in. We don’t give up till we get there.”
It’s that relentless persistence and drive that have been keys to McCann’s success.
Take Coke, a brand McCann handled since 1955–when the tagline was “Bright and bracing as sunshine”–before losing responsibility for it in the U.S. in 1993 to Michael Ovitz’s Creative Artists Agency, which spun off Santa Monica, Calif.-based Edge Creative. McCann, however, never lost sight of the business. Last spring, its pursuit paid off: The agency regained an assignment for Classic Coke.
“The thing to understand is we are back in the fray,” says Dooner about Coke. “It’s been a long time coming.”
1999 was marked by big client wins, especially Microsoft. In May, McCann’s San Francisco office, along with Anderson & Lembke, won the $100 million Windows 2000 business. A month later, the agency was awarded Microsoft’s domestic corporate account, a $250 million deal that pushed out Wieden & Kennedy. By October, the agency won Microsoft’s pan-European $50 million Business Solutions account.
Its stellar performance, for the second consecutive year, has earned McCann-Erickson the distinction of Adweek’s global agency of the year.
“At McCann, there is a culture of refusing to lose,” says Jim Heekin, regional director of McCann-Erickson Europe/Africa/Middle East. “You see it everywhere– from the mail room to the traffic department.”
McCann’s persistence is also evident in its creative product for clients like MasterCard, whose “Priceless” campaign is enjoying its second year of success, and Gateway. Todd Bradley, senior vice president of Gateway’s consumer division, says, “They are a
persistent and good partner. They continually work with us to fine-tune our product and our message. Our total awareness is in the 99 percent range–and they have been key in helping us get there.”
Last year, in order to boost its creative product, the agency initiated a worldwide internal competition called Grand McCann. In addition to a cash reward, winners receive either a gold, silver or bronze award:
a shovel on a pedestal. DiSesa says it symbolizes, “Our determination to keep digging until we get the best ideas.”
Marcio Moreira, worldwide vice chairman and chief creative officer, attributes the momentum of the worldwide creative product to McCann Pulse, a new consumer program in 68 countries. “We provide consumer insights in so many cultures and they contribute to our effectiveness,” says Moreira. “It’s not about translating ads; it is about understanding the consumer psyche.”
McCann seems well-positioned for the future, having recently reshuffled its internal talent. Heekin, named president and CEO of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, will arrive in New York at the end of the month. Don Dillon, regional director for McCann North America, will succeed Heekin.
Although he’s been busy shoring up the management team, Dooner still finds time to pitch and service clients–a task he thoroughly enjoys. He personally made five presentations to Avis and regularly treks to Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta.
After all, says Dooner, “Managing is my night job. My day job is advertising.”
Billings: Up 15 percent to $18.8 billion (est.)
Revenue: Up 15 percent to $2.2 billion (est.)
Win/Loss Pitch Ratio: 11 out of 12

Accounts Won/Media Budget:
Microsoft ($400 million)
Sprint national TV AOR ($150 million)
Agilent Technologies ($100 million)
Lowe’s Home Centers ($100 million)
DuPont ($50 million)
The Boeing Co. ($30 million)
Paxil ($30 million)
Avis Rent A Car ($20 million)
Sx Sports Med ($20 million)
Texas Tourism ($20 million)
Johnson & Johnson corporate ($13 million)

Clients Lost/Media Budget:
First Brands ($30 million–acquired by Clorox)
Marriott ($10 million)
Boston Beer ($10 million)

Won Microsoft worldwide
Regained an assignment from Coke
Launched global media agency Universal McCann

Source: Adweek reports and Competitive Media Reportin