FCB Cuts Back in Southern California

LOS ANGELES Interpublic Group’s Foote Cone & Belding will reduce its Irvine, Calif., outpost to a service office for Taco Bell, eliminating about 20 people, a third of its personnel, according to sources.

Managers there will now to report to FCB San Francisco president Dominic Whittles, sources said.

Irvine president Jon Tracosas, who joined FCB in November 2003 from Havas’ Arnold in Boston, has left the agency, as well as the FCB network, for personal reasons, according to sources.

The shop’s mainstay, Taco Bell’s $230 million account, will now be handled by FCB’s Chicago office, where it will be consolidated with the rest of the Yum Brands business, sources said.

Executives at the agency either could not be reached or declined comment.

FCB in Irvine, which had estimated 2002 billings of $300 million, has been troubled since the June 2001 departure of Scott Montgomery, after which the agency hired and lost both Holland Henton and Bill Cimino as executive creative directors.

Last fall, after the agency lost the $15 million Kawasaki account, FCB hired executive cd Erich Funke to stem the tide [Adweek, Nov. 8, 2004].

Funke was instrumental in FCB’s successful defense of at least some of the Hilton Hotels account, though the amount of billings the agency has retained is still in question after a review completed in July. Sources said Funke would continue to work on that account with the San Francisco office from Irvine. Funke was unavailable for comment.

Sources said that of the agency’s smaller clients, which include Sunkist Growers, the Hong Kong Tourism Board and the U.S. Forest Service (Smokey the Bear), only the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) would remain in Irvine. The remaining accounts will be managed from San Francisco.