Ex-Saatchi General Mills Team in Talks With IPG

NEW YORK The 17 staffers who quit Saatchi & Saatchi en masse on Monday are in advanced talks to be hired by Interpublic Group, after being pursued by IPG, WPP Group and an Omnicom Group agency, sources said on Thursday.

All but one of the executives worked on Saatchi’s estimated $500 million General Mills account under worldwide account director Mike Burns, who split with the Publicis Groupe agency last week, said sources [Adweek Online, Feb. 11].

Sources said WPP and an Omnicom shop had expressed interest in hiring the team, but that IPG’s negotiations with the creative and account executives had reached an advanced stage, making IPG the most likely destination.

IPG’s Campbell Mithun and McCann Erickson are General Mills roster shops, and under one scenario, said sources, the executives might land at Campbell Mithun.

IPG is pursuing the executives with an eye on the business they handled at Saatchi: Big G cereal brands such as Cheerios and Total, Yoplait yogurt and Betty Crocker snacks such as Fruit Gushers and Fruit by the Foot, said sources. Spending on those brands amounts to more than three-quarters of the $500 million in General Mills spending at Saatchi, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Ultimately, the Minneapolis-based client will decide whether that business stays or goes, said sources.

“We continue to be very pleased with Saatchi’s work on our behalf and we are looking forward to continuing our 80-year relationship,” said Marybeth Thorsgaard, a General Mills representative. The client declined further comment.

Representatives at IPG, Saatchi and Campbell Mithun declined comment.

On Tuesday, the day after the resignations, Saatchi issued a statement saying that New York CEO Mary Baglivo and New York executive creative director Tony Granger had assumed leadership responsibilities on the account, adding, “While the recent departures are unfortunate, we remain confident in our ability to service this important client.”