Dailey, Suissa Embrace Culture Clash of Merger

For the 50 employees of the former Suissa Miller who gathered last Monday in a Dailey & Associates conference room to hear from their new boss, the message wasn’t to try to fit in.

“I didn’t want them to lose their own individuality,” Dailey CEO Cliff Einstein said he told the morning assembly in his agency’s West Hollywood, Calif., office over bagels and coffee.

That would seem an unlikely directive for the newly merged Interpublic Group shops (they officially combined operations last Monday), whose cultures are admittedly quite different.

Bringing disparate cultures together has historically made agency mergers wrenching affairs—the combination of Needham Harper Steers and Doyle Dane Bernbach a case in point. More recently, the 2000 acquisition by old-line packaged-goods shop Euro RSCG Tatham of crea- tive boutique McConnaughy Stein Schmidt & Partners in Chicago has met with less-than-illustrious results, with the agency hard-pressed to sell a new identity.

Einstein said he believes this merger will allow the combined shops to benefit from the best both have to offer: the energy of Suissa Miller and the stability of Dailey. He also said that since Suissa Miller is relatively small, it makes managing any cultural issues easier. “This isn’t 300 hundred people, or 1,000; it is about 50, and I can meet them all,” said Einstein.

“We’re loud, iconoclastic, feisty, irreverent,” said Suissa Miller co-founder Bruce Miller, who with David Suissa is now a vice chairman at Dailey, reporting to Einstein. “They’re more stable, and their business acumen is worthy of praise and awe. Those two together will be an extremely intriguing combination.”

The combined 275-member agency claims billings of almost $600 million, sources said. Clients include Nestlé, Safeway, Callaway Golf, Princess Cruises, ConocoPhillips and Best Western. Suissa Miller, which laid off five staffers in December in anticipation of the merger, contributed $75-100 million in billings, sources said.

Einstein, 64, said he agreed that Suissa Miller, while smaller, was more aggressive and less conventional than his shop, “partly due to its size and accounts.” Despite that, Einstein said he believes the shops have many similarities, such as their prowess in packaged goods.

A potential merger had been discussed by the shops for several years, Einstein said. The talks came and went with the success of Suissa Miller, which at one time had the then-$150 million Acura business (lost in 1999) and endured a tumultuous time during the dot-com boom and bust.

While previous discussions were hampered by conflicts—when Suissa Miller had Acura, it conflicted with Dailey’s Southern California Ford Dealer Association account, for example—this time, only Suissa Miller’s Ghirardelli Chocolate business presented a problem because of Dailey’s work for Nestlé. Ghirardelli has since moved its $2 million account in-house.

Suissa, 47, and Miller, 51, will continue to work on key accounts where needed. Miller, formerly president, will help with new business. Suissa, who was executive creative director, will “work on creative projects he is promised to and critical to,” Einstein said.