Merkley’s Reel Was Benz Clincher

Omnicom’s DAS Made Choice Easy; Winner to Begin Staffing Up
NEW YORK–Merkley Newman Harty was a relatively easy choice for Mercedes, considering the client’s long-standing relationship with Omnicom Group’s Diversified Agency Services units, but that choice was sealed by the quality of Merkley’s reel.
The search to replace Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Lowe & Partners/ SMS began three weeks ago, with meetings between Mercedes and the chiefs of the two holding companies that work for Mercedes’ parent DaimlerChrysler: Omnicom’s John Wren and True North Communications’ Bruce Mason. The speed of the decision reflected Mercedes’ desire to see as little disruption on the account as possible. This also counted in favor of the Omnicom units already working below the line on the business.
The client held secret meetings with the two agencies Omnicom and TN had put forward for the business: Merkley and Foote, Cone & Belding. The meetings were held at undisclosed neutral sites to avoid attracting attention.
Merkley president Parry Merkley led his agency’s meeting, which also included Wren. The Omnicom head also offered the services of several agencies, including Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. FCB’s presentation was made by worldwide chairman Brendan Ryan, Mason and Steve Humphrey, chairman and chief executive of FCB Direct Worldwide. TN also tried the integrated approach under the aegis of FCB, sources said.
But the lame-duck status of Mason could have been a factor in Mercedes’ decision, sources said. Mason is set to retire at month’s end; TN has not yet chosen his successor.
Mercedes, with its existing DAS relationships in mind, was impressed by Merkley’s work for former client IBM and its integrated approach on BellSouth, said Joe Eberhardt, vice president of marketing at Mercedes-Benz of North America.
Mercedes’ consolidation at DAS “says a lot about the power of Omnicom to deliver all these services,” said Abe Jones, a principal at AdMedia Partners here.
Wren said the real key was Omnicom’s existing relationship with the client. “A substantial part of their business was already with DAS,” he noted. “That helped us enormously.”
An ecstatic and exhausted Merkley said last week: “This is as good as it gets This is what you’re in the business for.”
Merkley plans to expand its staff of 130 to service what will become its largest account. A dedicated team is expected, probably with more than 50 staffers. One name to watch: Marty Orzio, a former group creative head at Lowe who left the agency two weeks ago. As for longtime client handler Marvin Sloves, Wren and Merkley both said they’ve had “no contact” with him [see story “IPG Suit Seeks $25 Mil. in Damages From Sloves”].