Bayless, Merkley Finalize Merger

Former Wieden CD Jerry Cronin Completes Management Team
ATLANTA–The merger between Bayless & Partners and Merkley Newman Harty’s office here, long the subject of speculation, became fact last week. But the deal includes an added twist: former Wieden & Kennedy creative Jerry Cronin will join the operation.
The new entity is a mouthful: Bayless/Cronin, a Merkley Newman Harty Co. It will be a freestanding unit of New York-based Merkley, which has been looking to bolster its Southeast presence, where it has mostly served a single client, BellSouth. Terms were not disclosed.
Not that Merkley apparently thinks there is much competition. The principal players in the deal–Tim Bayless, Merkley’s Jerry Brown and Cronin–cited a “need for a new creative powerhouse in the Southeast” as the impetus for their union.
“There’s really only one great agency in the Southeast, and that’s The Martin Agency,” said Bayless. “[Merkley parent] Omnicom feels like it might be missing the boat,” noting the market represented untapped potential for the holding company.
“Atlanta’s reputation is that it’s really just a moderately successful regional agency town . . . [when] it should be on the level of a Minneapolis, a San Francisco,” said Brown, 55, who helped iron out the deal. He will take a top executive post after working with Merkley on new business efforts for the past few months. “WestWayne is making a move, but after that, who is there really?”
The troika talk tough, but their credentials suggest the new $43 million shop could be something special.
Bayless, 47, its chief executive, held key creative posts at Boston’s Hill, Holiday and BBDO South here, before founding Bayless & Partners in 1992. Creative director and managing partner Cronin, 41, a senior creative at Wieden in Portland, Ore., was a copywriter on the ESPN and Nike accounts. He has won numerous awards, including a gold Lion at this year’s Cannes festival for Nike’s “Meat” spot.
“I’d like to make [Bayless/Cronin] the way Wieden was four to five years ago; small, a little chaotic, but the working conditions were just about perfect,” said Cronin, who was buying a home here last week.
The pair has already helped Merkley in pitches for Mindspring and Churchs Chicken, which went to Fallon McElligott and Cliff Freeman and Partners, respectively. Brown cited one account conflict, Merkley’s Traveler’s Insurance and Bayless’ projects for Wachovia Bank. Both shops have worked for BellSouth.