Omnicom, McBride Near Agreement

NEW YORK Omnicom Group and TBWA are in advanced talks to set up a boutique agency for Chuck McBride, the North American executive creative director of TBWA\Chiat\Day in San Francisco, sources said.

The proposed shop would be based in San Francisco and function as an additional creative resource and conflict option for Omnicom, which is expected to bankroll all or most of the operation. Final details could be ironed out in the next few weeks.

TBWA worldwide president Tom Carroll said only, “Chuck is a very unique and incredibly talented guy and we’re going to find a way—the best way—to tap into that talent.”

At the same time, Mike Allen, president of TBWA\C\D in San Francisco, plans to migrate to the fledgling Los Angeles office of Omnicom’s 180, said sources. Allen will likely lead the outpost, which opened last month to service Sony Electronics, a new global client of 180.

“We have a plan in San Francisco and we’re finalizing details of that plan,” said Robert LePlae, TBWA’s North American president, who declined further comment.

McBride, who joined TBWA\C\D from Wieden + Kennedy in 1999, is said to be talking to senior executives at rival agencies in the region about assuming top roles at the boutique if the launch moves forward.

McBride declined comment, as did Allen and representatives at Omnicom.

As planned, the new agency would open with most, but not all, of TBWA\C\D’s clients in San Francisco, including Fox Sports Net, Motorola, Ray-Ban and Seagate, said sources. The opening of a McBride-led shop would likely trigger the closing of TBWA\C\D’s San Francisco outpost, which opened in 1998 to serve Levi’s. Some of the office’s estimated 50 staffers would join the new shop, while others will follow Allen to 180 or shift to TBWA\C\D in Playa del Rey, Calif., said sources.

Adidas, a global client that TBWA\C\D in San Francisco shares with 180 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, will remain within the network and either drop anchor at the agency’s office in Playa del Rey, where worldwide chief creative officer Lee Clow is based, or at 180 in Los Angeles, per sources. Adidas is among the key global clients that Clow remains close to, along with Apple and Masterfoods/Mars.

Allen, who is now splitting his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is expected to continue to play a leading role in managing the Adidas business, albeit from his new perch at 180.

Upon joining TBWA\C\D, McBride became the creative leader on Levi’s. In early 2002, however, Levi Strauss shifted the estimated $40 million creative account to Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York. The account loss triggered staff cuts at TBWA\C\D and raised questions about the need for an office in San Francisco.