TBWA\C\D Mulls Lifeline for S.F.

TBWA\Chiat\Day is leaning toward downsizing its San Francisco operation into a creative-only office that would service Adidas and other established accounts, sources said.

The plan being floated follows the office’s loss several weeks ago of the $60 million Levi’s business, which it had handled since 1998. That account landed at Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York. London-based BBH already handled Levi’s outside the U.S.

Sources earlier said TBWA\C\D was considering closing in San Fran cisco [Adweek, Jan. 14]. But management is now looking at a stra tegy that would leave a core team of creatives there to ensure a presence in Northern California, sources said.

A key impetus for this is to retain North American creative director Chuck McBride, who is attached to the Bay Area and would leave the agency before uprooting his family and transferring to the Southern California office in Playa del Rey, sources said.

Even if McBride were willing to move, sources said the agency sees ad vantages to having him and Lee Clow, its top creative, work out of separate offices.

“The chances of staying open [in San Fran cisco] are pretty good, but we’ve got to get the [staff] numbers down so Omnicom will be happy,” said a source, referring to the agency’s parent company.

Tom Carroll, president of the Americas at TBWA\C\D, said nothing had been decided, and that the fate of the office will likely be determined early this week.

As it stands, San Francisco handles Starz Encore Group’s $40 million account, the $5-10 million Wine Council account and a $1 million assignment for Callaway Golf. It has also worked on Sony Play Station, but that account is expected to be transferred to Playa del Rey.

Playa del Rey has taken the lead on global creative for Adidas, but San Francisco is also involved in that work, sources said.

The San Francisco office is not pitching any business as it awaits a decision on its future, sources said.

If the office survives, staff cuts seem inevitable. There have apparently been no reductions following the Levi’s loss, but roughly half of the shop’s 91 staffers worked on the account, and shops around town are reporting a flurry of résumés from jittery TBWA\C\D employees. Several staffers said they assume their jobs will be axed even if the office remains open in a reduced capacity.

McBride led the team that crafted Levi’s “Make them your own” campaign, which included ads with karaoke and talent-show themes.