A ‘Graceful Exit’ for Ogilvy

WPP Group has shut down its Ogilvy & Mather office here.

The shop, established by executive creative director Ian Latham and general manager Neill Cam-eron in 1980, will be merged into crosstown WPP sibling, J. Walter Thompson.

“The decision was made so we could provide our clients with continuity, commitment and the resources they’ve come to expect,” said Latham, who last served as managing director.

Established essentially to service C&S Bank, Ogilvy grew into a regional powerhouse over the next 15 years, handling the Centers for Disease Control, Shoney’s and the Food Lion supermarket accounts.

The shop was named Adweek’s Southeast Agency of the Year, largely on the strength of its broadcast creative, in 1995.

Ogilvy began a downward spiral after the defection of director of client services John Ames and media director Tony O’Haire, who left to form Ames Scullin O’Haire in 1996. Cameron retired in 1999. In 2000, ASO walked off with Ogilvy’s signature Food Lion account.

That blow was followed by last summer’s loss of the $12 million Krystal hamburger account to Mc-Kinney & Silver of Raleigh, N.C.

According to a source familiar with both WPP shops, the consolidation “allows a graceful exit” for Ogilvy. “It makes sense for WPP to fold whatever’s left into Thompson.”

JWT’s general manager in Atlanta, Jeff White, said the move will “preserve jobs.”

The majority of Ogilvy’s 26 staffers, both Latham and White said, will be incorporated into JWT, while continuing to work out of Ogilvy’s midtown office.

Latham said he would be “pursuing opportunities within the WPP community.”

Ogilvy Atlanta’s clients include U.S. Virgin Islands, the Atlanta Zoo and the U.S. Peanut Board.

A precedent for consolidation was set last year when the media departments of both shops were combined to form MindShare North America.