V&B Sets Aggressive Growth Plan

Projects Chicago Office Billings to Hit $120 Million Within 5 Years
CHICAGO–Vickers & Benson chairman John Hayter spent six years in the 1980s as chief executive officer of Young & Rubicam’s office here. It helps explain why he knows it won’t be easy for his agency to establish a presence here.
“This isn’t a market you can enter as a copycat [agency] or with arrogance. This is a tough market, and it’s a challenge,” Hayter said last week as Toronto-based V&B opened its first full-service branch operation here.
“But our world has shrunk. V&B has run out of room for growth [in Canada],” he said. While Chicago is 10 times the size of V&B’s home city, it offers “an equally big opportunity, and we’re making a serious run at it,” he said. “This isn’t a toy in the water for us.”
V&B established an informal presence here more than a year ago, working solely for (and within the offices of) Chicago’s Harris Bank, which had been acquired by V&B client Bank of Montreal. Now that presence is being expanded to a full-service agency operation, with “the green light and encouragement” from Harris to seek additional clients, Hayter said.
Hayter has set aggressive goals for the Chicago office: He said he expects its current $20 million in billings (from Harris and the Canadian Tourism Commission) to grow to $50 million within three years and $120 million within five years.
Bill Flynn, who worked with Hayter at Y&R and who later opened his own agency, is president of V&B’s Chicago office. He and Hayter “have won some battles and lost some as well in Chicago,” Flynn said. “We have some contacts and credibility in this market, and we have a great team of people. It’s going to take hard work, no question, but I think when there are clients that need what V&B has to offer, we’ll give it everything we’ve got. And I think we’ve got a lot.”
The new operation will be V&B’s U.S. office, not just a Chicago outpost, Flynn said. Its new business hunt won’t be limited to Chicago, he said, but will likely be focused in the Midwest.
Hayter said V&B is looking at possible acquisitions to strengthen its U.S. presence, most likely in database or direct marketing. But he said the $155 million agency is not looking to be acquired, although it is continually approached. “There’s a ‘Not for Sale’ sign on the door,” he said. “It’s been there for 74 years.