Loss Has Siltanen/Keehn Reeling

-Heavily front-loaded, until last week, with a marquee account out of all proportion to its size, Siltanen/Keehn is now gutting its staff just to stay on its feet, sources said.

Gateway last week yanked its $180 million-plus creative account from Siltanen/Keehn after only 10 months there. With it goes a storybook opening to agency life for the 3-year-old El Segundo, Calif., shop.

Sources said the agency immediately began cutting staff—as many as half its its 44 employees are now gone—and freelancers. The loss of the computer maker leaves it with creative duties for only one steady client, Round Table Pizza, which spends $10 million annually.

Gateway has a history of agency hopping, but the timing of this dismissal rankled Siltanen/Keehn executives, sources said. Two spots from the shop broke last Monday touting the company’s commitment to customer service and featuring a new logo and tagline, “Gateway. A better way.” The agency was fired the next day.

Agency president Pam Keehn declined to discuss long-term implications, but she said she was disappointed. “We breathed new life into the Gateway brand,” she said. She called the shop’s work “easily the best … in [Gateway’s] history.”

Brad Shaw, the client’s svp of marketing and corporate communications, said most creative work is moving to Arnell Group in New York, which has worked with Gateway for eight months on a new corporate image. He called the decision a “natural evolution.” Media remains at Initiative Media, Los Angeles.

As was the case with Arnell, Siltanen/Keehn got its foot in the door at Gateway through project work. Gateway chose Fallon, Minnea polis, after a review in early 2001, but the two could not come to terms. The client ultimately chose Siltanen/Keehn based on projects the shop did in the latter half of 2001.

Gateway has also worked with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and McCann-Erickson.

Asked about Gateway’s bumpy record with ad agencies, Shaw said, “What’s past is past, but for us the future looks bright.”