Focus Will Close Doors

DALLAS–The Focus Agency here will be closing its doors, industry sources said, after losing its last remaining client, Shell Energy, and failing to gain any new business.

About 15-20 employees will be affected.

Staffers at the Omnicom agency, housed within the Irving, Texas, complex of direct marketer Rapp Collins, declined comment on Friday. “We’re instructed not to say anything–I’m sorry,” said one.

Mark Miller, who is the president and CEO of Rapp Collins and has headed Rapp since the departure of some of the agency’s top executives early this year, said he announced the loss of the $16-20 million account to staffers on Thursday.

“There has been no decision to close the agency,” said Miller, adding that it nevertheless “may well happen.”

Once an account team within Dallas’ venerable Tracy-Locke agency, Focus was spun off as a separate entity to handle the needs of a single telecom client, GTE Corp. When, devastatingly, GTE pulled up stakes in 1997 and moved to Ogilvy & Mather, New York, the agency and its then 65 employees rallied by pulling in more than $60 million in new accounts.

The new clients, however, proved as unstable as GTE, either moving on to other shops or drastically reducing spending. In 1998 Focus won the pitch for Houston-based Shell Energy, a division of Shell Oil that retails energy and natural gas in deregulated markets. A source said the agency was recently informed it will no longer have that business.

Last year, Focus was brought in-house at Rapp in an attempt to combine the creative and direct marketing skills of both companies.