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Think small By Alison Fahey and David Kile

When Volkswagen of America demanded total devotion from its agency, DDB Needham’s solution was to form a new independent agency divorced from the distractions of a large

DDB/N.Y. president Andy Berlin is stopping aside as president of that $550-million agency to head up a new shop: Berlin, Wright & Cameron, which will be mainly devoted to the stormy $70-100-million VW account.
While the formation of the autonomous BW&C keeps VW, for the time being, from going the way of VW’s Audi division (that $30-million account left DDB/Chicago and went to McKinney & Silver/Raleigh, N.C.), sources said it also may ease some internal tension in DDB’s New York office. Acting as a catalyst for change, Berlin had dearly ruffled more than a few feathers inside DDB during his 15-month tenure as president.
Also, DDB insiders said Berlin had become bored with the bureaucracy intrinsic to a multinational agency and was itching to become more hands-on with clients.
Sources said DDB chairman and ceo Keith Reinhard is less than thrilled about the new arrangement and the emotional aspects of VW technically leaving DDB. “(Reinhard) realized that the (U.S.) business was either going into review or it was going with Berlin and Wright,” said one source.
However, Berlin denied that Reinhard, who was unavailable for comment, had any philosophical problems with the set-up. “Keith and I both felt the timing did not allow us to work out all the details, but it’s according to Volkswagen’s needs, that’s all, “he said.
“We wanted Andy and Tony (Wright) devoted to VW. We are a small part of DDB’s total business in the U.S., and we feel that with what we want to accomplish that we need a smaller shop where we’re a bigger part of the operations and we have the focus of the agency’s management,” said newly appointed VW director of marketing David Huyett.” VW just broke a new campaign this weekend that was developed while Berlin and Wright were at DDB.
Joining agency chairman Berlin at the New York-based agency as president will be Wright, formerly executive vp/group account director at DDB, and Ewen Cameron, who will become executive vp from senior vp/account planning at DDB. Scott Burns, a consultant, will join the new team as creative director. DDB accounts The Washington Post and Heinz’ Ore-Ida also will move to BW&C, sources said.
Although DDB’s rocky relationship with VW in the U.S. appears to have healed somewhat over the past few months, VW dealers have been demanding a break from DDB and the wayworn 34-year union.
“Sure, we have been asking for a change in ad agency. It’s not an ax to grind against DDB Needham. That’s just good business to ask for review of things when traffic and sales are down, and they have been,” said Chris von Berg, a Laurel, Md., dealer who heads the marketing committee of VW’s dealer council.
Volkswagen of America chief Tom Shaver and Huyett–who played a role in the firing of DDB/Chicago off Audi earlier this year–were the two key executives pushing DDB for change.
The move to set up a new agency dominated by VW in the U.S. is clearly a defensive measure by DDB to keep VW under its, or its parent Omnicom’s, umbrella.
One DDB executive said the agency probably could have saved Audi with the kind of spinoff being created for VW, but that it lacked an account team equipped to win over Audi’s new management the way Berlin and Wright seemed to have won VW’s confidence.
Sources said that for six to eight months DDB and VW have been exploring ways to better service VW. However, sources said the creation of something along the lines of Focus GTE–a separate unit but not a separate agency–didn’t satisfy the financial demands of Berlin and Wright.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)