JWT West Reborn in 1999

Resurgence Brings New Clients, Management Team
SAN FRANCISCO-It’s been a busy six months for JWT West.
The San Francisco agency, which has been trying to get back on track since the debilitating loss of its $250 million Sprint account to McCann-Erickson, New York, last year, is on a new business spree and beginning to rebuild the staff ranks decimated by the departure of its longtime telcommunications client.
Since Jan. 1, the shop has landed more than $80 million in new business, topped off by its quiet win of the $30 million-plus global account of Infineon Technologies, a leading manufacturer of semiconductors for the telecommunications and automotive engineering industries. The shop won the Silicon Valley, Calif.-based client’s business after a review of undisclosed agencies. It is currently producing a global print campaign, set to break later this month in business publications, appealing to investors.
Last week, JWT West emerged victorious in another review, against finalist DDB, San Francisco, for the $10-15 million account of Interact, a video game accessory manufacturer. The agency also won the $10 million account of Busybox.com, which distributes still photos, film footage and videos over the Internet to the media, sports and entertainment industries.
Wins earlier in the year included the $5-10 million domestic account of Siemens Information and Communication Networks; the $10 million business of Pacific Gas & Electric; and, late last month, the $10 million account of Coco’s Restaurants.
Larry Tolpin, the agency’s chief executive officer and worldwide creative director, said much of the recent success is due in part to his newfound ability to focus more on day-to-day operations.
When Tolpin joined JWT West in late 1997 from BBDO South, Atlanta, he became not only the creative leader of that outpost, but also worldwide creative director for JWT’s offices in Los Angeles, Canada and the Asia-Pacific region. In short, he was constantly needed elsewhere in the network, and was unable to focus on re-energizing the slumping San Francisco office-until now.
“I’ve cut back drastically on my travel,” said Tolpin. “Traveling [to other offices] now takes up only about 30 percent of my time.”
JWT West, which currently has just over 100 staffers-including those from sister agencies Hill & Knowlton and Blanc & Otus-is now in a “hiring mode,” staffing up across all departments to meet the needs of the new business, said Tolpin.
Changes at the executive level are also under way. Agency president David Riemer left last summer, and was replaced in April by Gordon Munroe [Adweek, March 29]. Munroe is assisting with the new hires.
“We want rising stars: those people who embrace creative as a philosophy, who know advertising is not about making 30-second TV spots,” said Munroe. “It’s about developing creative solutions for clients.”
Tolpin and Munroe both admit it’s been a slow process finding the right talent to rebuild JWT West. Recent big account losses such as Sprint and Sun Microsystems, and their resulting layoffs, have made the agency a tough sell.
“We say you have to prune a tree to let the buds grow,” said Tolpin.
The rebirth has included the formation of a new management team, which includes Tolpin and Monroe, as well as Greg Rowan, a senior partner and deputy creative director who joined last year from BBDO Canada, and Carrel McCarthy, partner and director of the agency’s digital and interactive division.
Also promoted to the leadership team were Susan Lansing, account director and director of new business development; Maya Cody, media director; John Zissamos, group creative director and director of broadcast; Maggie Rae, senior partner and account director; and Georgia McIntosh, partner and associate director of strategic planning. ƒ