Boston Shop Just Wants To Be Alone

According to Jack Wallwork, he and partner Bob Curry were just too accustomed to doing things their way to operate their business as part of Cronin and Co.

“We both felt when you’ve had your own agency for so long, it’s very hard to not do that anymore,” said Wallwork.

The partners in 12-year-old Boston shop Wallwork & Curry are splitting from Cronin on July 1 after three years as Cronin/Wallwork Curry, a division of Glastonbury, Conn.-based Cronin. Wallwork & Curry’s contract with Cronin was limited in term to “give ourselves an out,” said Wallwork, managing director at his agency.

“We said we’d look into each other’s eyes at the end of the contract and see if this [still] makes sense,” said Cronin president Bill Cronin. “We had differences in how we operated the agency, not how we serviced [our] clients. … [Wallwork and Curry] were missing entrepreneurial independence.”

The deal aimed to give Cronin a Boston presence and offer Wallwork & Curry greater PR and direct capabilities. The arrangement was successful on the new-business front, with 2003 wins including Keurig, Liberty Bank and Digital Federal Credit Union—up from two wins in 2002 (Centerplate and more Konica Business Technologies work). According to the shop, Cronin’s 2003 billings and revenue were up 10 percent to about $70 million and $9 million, respectively, from 2002. But Wallwork said that success did not compensate for the lack of control he and Curry felt.

“[Agencies] completely underestimate the cultural symmetry—or lack thereof” in mergers, said Chris Colbert, a former president of now-shuttered Holland Mark and president of Boston marketing consultancy One Eighty Ventures. “When you bring two organizations together, there’s going to be a lot of emotional static.”

The two shops will continue to work together on some accounts, such as Bertucci’s, for which Wallwork & Curry will create ads while Cronin handles PR.