D’Arcy L.A. Will be folded into Colby

LOS ANGELES Publicis Groupe’s D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles office here will be folded into Colby & Partners with all but its largest client, Sonicare, shifting to the five-year old agency, senior executives at the two shops said. The move, which is slated to take effect early next year, was engineered by Publicis top management based on the relationship of the parent companies of the two shops involved: Colby is wholly owned by Dentsu Corp. which in turn owns approximately a 15% stake in Publicis, they said.

The decision means that the 85-person shop Colby & Partners will take on an undetermined number of the 35 staffers at D’Arcy, as well four clients. Video game marketer Activison, Chandon sparkling wines, Best Software and Western Union –which collectively bill about $40 million– will move to Colby, said the shop’s president Rick Colby. The agency, which handles the Suzuki Automotive account as well as Wherehouse Music and Paramount Domestic Television has about $150 million in billings.

Unclear is the fate of Sonicare, a division of Philips Oral Health Care whose $14 million account has been handled by D’Arcy since November 2001. Because of Publicis’s involvement with other elements of the Philips business on a global scale, the account “will stay in the Publicis family,” said the managing director and EVP of D’Arcy’s LA office, Diane Krouse. She an announcement from the client was expected “in the near future.”

For her part, Krouse, 48, said she plans to leave D’Arcy after the shop closes. A 26-year veteran of D’Arcy and its previous incarnations, Krouse said she had recommended a merger of her shop with Colby. She added she has not yet determined her immediate plans. She also said that the Terry Balagia, D’Arcy’s SVP and executive creative director, left the agency earlier this week to become Fox Broadcasting’s SVP, creative marketing. He could not be reached for comment.

“It a painful decision for those us so attached to the D’Arcy name,” said Krouse. “But it is a wonderful step forward for the clients and the people who work here.”

She noted that D’Arcy’s media agency, MediaVest. is unaffected by the move. It’s 25-person staff will stay in the Wilshire Blvd office it shares with D’Arcy, she said.

Colby declined to discuss the terms of the deal with Publicis but said he was somewhat surprised by it. “We are not a Publicis agency so this didn’t seem like a likely scenario,” said Colby, 51. “But when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. D’Arcy [LA] and us are a lot alike in terms of size and structure.” Asked how many staffers from D’Arcy will make the move to his shop, he said, “Some of them.”

The move to fold D’Arcy into Colby stems from the recent decision by Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy to dismantle the D’Arcy network.