Jim Schwanter Oversees 2 Operations, Handles Strategy Goals
BOSTON–One step short of folding its two direct marketing operations into one, Arnold Communications last week put Wickersham Hunt Schwantner president Jim Schwantner in charge of both. Arnold Direct president Shari Williams has stepped down and is job hunting, sources said.
The two agencies–with about 130 staffers, 80 from Wickersham Hunt–will continue to have separate identities and office space, but Schwantner will now have bottom line responsibility for the performance of both organizations. The move will not precipitate layoffs at either unit, Schwantner said.
“These are two organizations that can benefit from a closer association,” he said. “This is not a merger” of operations. Agency sources said, however, that this move is a step in that direction. The roles of managing partners Lysle Wickersham and Amy Hunt will not change.
The reorganization, sources said, was long in the making. It was undertaken largely based on the mediocre performances of both direct units. Despite some new-business wins, including Web startup GiveNation.com, Wickersham Hunt was dogged through 1999 by spending cutbacks at two of its key clients: MediaOne and Bose Corp.
Compounding that was Wickersham’s late 1998 buyout of small Boston direct marketing shop Berenson, Isham & Partners, a move designed to boost the bottom line and add seasoned agency talent badly misfired. Snyder Communications–parent of both Arnold and Wickersham Hunt–filed suit against the principals of Berenson, Isham alleging misrepresentation.
Berenson, Isham executives denied the allegation and in a countersuit alleged that meddling from Wickersham Hunt management made it impossible for them to serve existing accounts and generate new clients [Adweek, Oct. 18, 1999].
Both cases are still pending in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.