Empower Cuts Staff After Loss

CHICAGO-Empower MediaMarketing has laid off 22 percent of its work force following the loss of The Andrew Jergens Co. account.

The $38 million media buying and planning account is now with TN Media, the media arm of Bozell, whose New York office handle creative for Jergens, the client confirmed last week.

Empower, which has handled the cosmetics and toiletries company since 1994, laid off 32 of its 147 employees, said Brian McHale, president of the Cincinnati shop.

“We had to reassign and restructure our staffing as a result of the loss,” McHale said.

Jergens, also based in Cincinnati, split from Empower to consolidate its advertising duties at one network, to “enhance efficiencies,” said company representative Bill Daddi. He added that the decision to change shops was not a reflection on Empower.

“My understanding is that Jergens was happy with Empower’s work and that the decision does not reflect anything more than keeping all advertising work at the same location,” Daddi said. True North officials would only confirm the move.

Best known for its Bioré, Curel and Ban deodorant brands, Jergens is a midsized marketer. Jergens spent $27 million promoting its brands in the first ten months of 2000, and $38 million in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The loss, McHale said, reflects what is happening to many media buying firms in the first quarter. “It is no secret the marketplace is soft and ad spending is down,” McHale said.

Despite that, Empower increased its billings to $650 million in 2000, slightly above the prior year. The shop also won seven new clients last year, including A&W Restaurants, Celestial Seasonings, Janus Mutual Funds and Oxydol.

“We took a hit, but overall Jergens is not going to affect our relationship with our existing clients,” McHale said.

Jergens is owned by KAO Corp. in Tokyo, which develops and markets personal care, household cleaning and food products as well as industrial and chemical items.

Bozell has handled creative for Jergens’ skin care brands since 1998. Earlier this year, Jergens awarded the shop creative duties on Bioré, a skin care product primarily used to reduce blemishes. The account was previously with Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York.