TBWA Brings Tequila to U.S.

NEW YORK — TBWA Worldwide has combined its North American interactive division with the direct marketing services of sister shop Direct Partners to expand the footprint of Tequila, its global marketing services arm.

The North American unit opens with offices in New York, Toronto, and Playa del Rey, Calif., and has billings of about $300 million. Wes Nichols, formerly a managing partner and co-founder of Direct, will lead a staff of 130 as president and CEO.

The move is designed to expand and diversify TBWA’s below-the-line offering, which arguably trails that of rival global networks. It also flows from the premise that clients today need integrated communications — not just 30-second TV spots.

“It’s a client-based rationale, and you have to have two willing partners,” explained Nichols. Added Tom Carroll, TBWA’s president of the Americas: “It’s all driven by what the market or what clients want.” Carroll further described Tequila as “a critical link to our integrated offering that has been missing [in the U.S.] until now.”

Previously, Tequila operated in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The addition of North America brings worldwide billings to about $1 billion and total staffing to approximately 1,000.

To further encourage a “media agnostic” approach to marketing, Tequila’s profit and loss responsibilities in North America will be tied to those of TBWA\Chiat\Day’s offices in New York, California and Canada. And while the unit will share clients with the ad agency (Nissan, Infiniti, Embassy Suites, et al), it will also pursue business on its own.

Plans call for Tequila to add promotional marketing services and continue to extend its global reach into Central and South America, said Nichols. Both goals can be achieved through acquisitions, he added. Nichols also plans to hire executives who specialize in event marketing.

Direct, meanwhile, will continue to operate in the U.S. and abroad through an affiliate, Claydon Heeley Jones Mason. (Direct and Claydon are units of Omnicom Group’s Diversified Agency Services.) Domestically, Direct is now run by three managing partners: Jerry McRuer, Skip Reed and Matt Hofherr.

Tequila, which was created in 1985 as a division of the former BDDP in Paris, became part of TBWA after Omnicom acquired BDDP parent GGT Group in 1998. One of the founders of BDDP, Jean-Marie Dru, is now worldwide CEO of TBWA.