Agencies Of The Year: U.S. Winner 1999 – Deutsch

Curtain Call
Donny deutsch and his partners stage a stunning performance–again
When Brad Iversen popped a videotape from Deutsch into his VCR one Friday night in early ’99, he was skeptical. Iversen, evp of marketing for Bank One’s retail group, expected sweeping promises and choice clips from the reel. Instead, he got a simple, two-minute message from agency chairman and CEO Donny Deutsch.
Deutsch talked about the agency’s experience in the category, courtesy of former client Bank of America. While acknowledging that shop was still relatively new to the financial services arena, he nonetheless asked for a chance to pitch the $60 million account. The message, which came after three months of letters and phone calls between the agency and the Columbus, Ohio, bank, struck a chord with Iversen. Before the personal pitch, he thought Deutsch was more focused on producing edgy work than servicing clients.
“It was the opposite of what my perceptions were,” says Iversen. “It was straight. It was direct. It was honest. And those were the values” Bank One was looking for. The video convinced him to give the agency a shot, even though he already had a shortlist (TBWA/Chiat/Day, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and DDB). Two months later, on the strength of a two-and-a-half-hour pitch that preached integration, Deutsch landed the business.
The five-month, multipronged effort reflects the agency’s indomitable spirit, which paid off handsomely last year. Deutsch won a staggering 11 of the 12 accounts it pitched (the sole loss: Toys “R” Us).
The final tally: Deutsch added about $510 million in new billings–a 52 percent increase to $1.2 billion, making it the largest independent agency in the U.S. Revenue grew 54 percent, from $86 million to $133 million. Besides Bank One, Deutsch added Pfizer, winning the allergy drug Zyrtec, Tommy Hilfiger, servicing the sportswear, footwear and legwear divisions, and Domino’s, which marks the shop’s return to the fast-food category.
In 1999, Deutsch also forged a relationship with Procter & Gamble through its startup, a beauty products Web site. The shop will create above-the-line advertising for it. “To crack these kinds of clients is exciting,” says Deutsch, 42, also noting the addition of Microsoft’s “We took a lot of people by surprise.”
Andrew Swinan,’s director of marketing, credits Deutsch with “pushing the envelope in redefining advertising and the way it’s done.”
While prolific on the new-business front, Deutsch found time to launch dRush, a youth-marketing venture with rap impresario Russell Simmons, and open a third office, in Boston, led by two former Arnold executives. Along the way, the staff grew 40 percent to more than 700. It’s that cocktail of growth, vision and winning
creative for the likes of Mitsubishi, Ikea and SunAmerica that pointed to Deutsch as Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year for the second year in row.
The chairman, who embraces the spotlight that comes with leading a national agency, attributes the continued success to a core group of partners: director of business development Peter Drakoulias, 39; executive creative director Kathy Delaney, 36; director of account management Val DiFebo, 38; chief strategy officer Cheryl Greene, 55; general manager Linda Sawyer, 38; group account director John Mittnacht, 43; director of media services Steve Soldano, 39; and Deutsch/LA executives Mike Sheldon, 40, evp, general manager, and Eric Hirshberg, 31, evp, executive creative director. “There’s tremendous loyalty within the organization,” says Deutsch. “It’s a special place. People want to stay.”
Why? “We still feel solidly outside the establishment. It always felt like it’s our thing, a club unto itself,” says Hirshberg. “I hope we never lose that.” Adds Delaney, “It’s that buzz I’m so addicted to. It keeps me going.”
As for 2000, Deutsch expects to open a London office as early as the first quarter. Work for a host of new clients, including Pfizer, Domino’s and Tommy Hilfiger, starts to roll out next month. Looking at the big picture, Deutsch says, “We like to keep our nose down, keep punching and hope good things will continue.”
Billings: Up 52 percent to $1.2 billion (est.)
Revenue: Up 54 percent to $133 million (est.)
Win/Loss Pitch Ratio: 11 out of 12
Accounts Won/Media Budget:*
Domino’s ($105 million)
Pfizer’s Zyrtec ($75 million)
Tommy Hilfiger ($70 million)
Bank One ($60 million)
Microsoft’s ($25 million) ($25-35 million)
Procter & Gamble’s ($20-30 million) ($20 million)
Citizen Watch ($15 million) ($15 million)
Brinks Home Security ($10-15 million)
SunAmerica ($10-12 million)
Grand Marnier ($5-7 million)

Clients Lost/Media Budget:**
Jergens’ Biore ($18 million-conflict
Foot Locker ($13 million-resigned)
Baskin-Robbins ($11 million-resigned)
Schieffelin & Somerset’s Tanqueray
($6 million-global consolidation)

Launched dRush
Opened Boston office
Established a relationship with Procter & Gamble
Helped Mitsubishi increase sales by 37 percent

*Budgets at time accounts were awarded
**Jan.-Oct. 1999

Source: Adweek reports and Competitive Media Reportin