IPG Revamp Evolves Yet Again

The massive make over of the Interpublic Group of Cos. unfolded largely as anticipated, with the holding company consolidating its holdings into four main operating divisions. But the saga’s denouement does involve a few notable last-minute twists, say sources familiar with the initial plans.

Among them is the absence of formal titles atop The Partnership, a collection of independent-minded advertising, public relations and marketing-services firms. Its leader, David Bell, was not given the CEO title, a variation on the original plan, and would-be chairman Frank Lowe was relegated to a “contributor” in a few lines toward the end of the press release.

Agency surprises included Campbell-Ewald, which was believed to be heading to McCann-Erickson WorldGroup, instead forging a “global strategic partnership” with FCB Group. On a smaller scale, True North’s Avrett Free Ginsberg, which at one point fell under The Partnership, landed in WorldGroup.

Also intriguing, said sources, is the situation at Bozell. Two years after FCB absorbed the assets of several Bozell offices, the latter again sees its empire shrink, with New York remaining its last stronghold. Bozell Kamstra offices in Danvers, Mass., and Pittsburgh were folded into Mullen, and Bozell’s $140 million Chicago operation was absorbed by Campbell Mithun. Still in question is the fate of Bozell in Omaha, Neb., and Bozell Kamstra offices in Minneapolis and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Asked about the lack of Partnership titles, IPG CEO John Dooner said, “Like all plans, they evolve and change.” He declined to comment specifically about Lowe, but did say of Bell, “There’s no question David is in charge.”

Dooner noted that in the spirit of a true partnership, “What we really wanted to do is break this perception of creating another hierarchy.”

While the title of chairman was intended to be largely ceremonial, Lowe is nevertheless believed to feel slighted, telling associates it was an intentional snub meant to displease him, sources said. A Lowe Lintas representative in London refused to relay messages seeking comment to Lowe.

Planning for the reorganization began late last year, as Dooner embarked on his first major initiative as CEO. It was months before IPG made a run for TN-a move that resulted in a $1.6 billion acquisition in June. Still, the TN deal expanded the scope of the mission and, some say, accelerated its course.

The three operating divisions-WorldGroup, FCB Group and The Partnership-will each be anchored by a global shop. The fourth, Ad vanced Marketing Services (formerly Allied Communications Group), consists of shops specializing in below-the-line services. Also under Advanced is Magna Global, a new media operation (see page 5).

As expected, Initiative Media will pick up buying duties from Partnership shops and FCB, with planning chores remaining at the shops and at FCB Media Services. Universal McCann remains a separate, stand-alone media brand.

Several heads of IPG agencies embraced the overall setup, noting that it could spur organic growth.

“The whole idea is about being able to provide our clients with the depth and breadth of resources,” said Mullen president Joe Grimaldi. “The Partnership brings a sense of order to all the independent agencies.”

Larry Weber, CEO of Advanced Marketing Services, said the reorganization is designed to “make cross-selling much easier.” Agencies within separate silos should in theory be able to work together more easily and offer a multiplicity of services, Weber added.