Y&R Detroit Fires, Hires in Search of ‘Better Mix’

Young & Rubicam has laid off several high-ranking executives, including its COO, while making hires in an effort to achieve a “better mix” of employees for clients, president Laurie Null said.

John Gillis, COO, Linda Dintenfass, vice president of planning, and Rich Williams, senior vice president and group account direct who also worked on new business, were among six employees laid off in recent weeks by the Dearborn, Mich., shop.

Williams was brought into the agency last October by former president Michael Webster to focus on new business and diversifying the client base. Webster left the agency shortly thereafter and was replaced by agency veteran Null, who previously was managing director of Y&R’s Impiric division in Detroit.

The layoffs were done in part to increase the office’s profit margin, under scrutiny throughout Y&R following the network’s acquisition by the WPP Group last year, Null said.

The office is still trying to recover from the loss of 90 percent of its business two years ago, when Ford Motor Co. moved its Lincoln-Mercury operations to California and Y&R followed. The agency’s cornerstone remains Ford, for which it handles Lincoln-Mercury Dealer Association business in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest.

Null’s focus is on building the bottom line primarily through increasing business through Ford and other existing clients, she said. The agency was recently awarded the estimated $3-5 million United Auto Workers/Ford account. Its other accounts include the Covisint e-business automotive trading exchange, Champion Homes, Heritage Media Network, the MGM Grand casino in Detroit and the Salvation Army.

While letting the three executives go from its staff of 220, Y&R has hired a new associate creative director, Lou Schiavone, and Chip Humitz, vice president, account planning, and has filled its long-empty media director’s opening with Craig Yateman, previously with FCB, Southfield, Mich.

The agency’s revenue is split about 40/60 between traditional advertising and relationship marketing, Null said. Its 2000 revenue was $18 million based on capitalized billings of $116 million. Speculation that the office might become Impiric only in the future are incorrect, she said. “The objective is to bring Y&R and Impiric closer together, but keep the Y&R banner,” she said.