Euro RSCG Fights to Get Off the Ropes

After losing four accounts in six months, Euro battles to keep ExxonMobil and Charles Schwab

Two months after becoming co-chairmen of Euro RSCG New York, Matt Ryan and Lee Garfinkel have their hands full trying not to come up empty.

The duo is in the thick of the agency’s pitch for ExxonMobil’s global account—which Euro RSCG now shares with DDB and McCann Erickson—and is fighting to squelch a review of another big account: Charles Schwab. All told, more than $15 million in revenue is at risk. And that’s after the agency shed more than $18 million from four other accounts in the past six months: Lean Cuisine, Jaguar, Heineken/Heineken Premium Light, and Triscuit.

At an office with total revenue of about $120 million, the losses are significant—and have triggered management changes and layoffs. And, of course, the agency is far from out of the woods.

In Garfinkel and Ryan, the shop is in the hands of seasoned ad guys, both in their 50s.

Garfinkel joined Euro RSCG in January, after years running agencies such as DDB and Lowe. He’s known for big brand-image work for the likes of Mercedes and Pepsi. Ryan, who once ran his own shop, has alternated between new business and account management roles in recent years after a brief stint as a consultant.

The duo inherited an office that suffered from leadership turnover and a lack of creative juice. Insiders attribute the Heineken and Triscuit losses in particular to creative issues. Naturally, it didn’t help that the agency had no chief creative officer for four months last year. (Previous CCO Con Williamson left in July, and his successor, Al Kelly, didn’t arrive until November.)

Pete Zillig, an account leader at heart, also seemed miscast as co-CEO of New York—an operational role that he assumed in February 2010 and vacated last month, leaving Jeff Brooks as sole CEO. Brooks now reports to Ryan and Garfinkel.

Strategic planning is another issue, with the agency searching for a new chief strategic officer, five months after Michael Fanuele left for Fallon. Fanuele was a key player in Euro RSCG’s pitch for MetLife in the fall. His thinking impressed client executives, but the shop’s creative executions fell short in their eyes. Ultimately, Crispin Porter + Bogusky won the account.

In sum, there’s no shortage of challenges facing Ryan and Garfinkel. Still, Ryan—sounding like the quintessential optimistic adman—is bullish that New York will turn the corner.

“We may have stumbled the last few months, but it’s a big, successful agency,” Ryan says. “It’s going to regain its footing and be in a good place.”