Venerable U.S. agencies D'Arcy MacManus Masius Worldwide and Benton & Bowles announced plans to merge in June 1985. The $2.45 billion deal constituted the largest in advertising history up to that time and created the No. 8 advertising agency in the world. Benton & Bowles traced its lineage to 1929, when it was founded by William Benton and Chester Bowles. Its major clients included packaged-goods giants Procter & Gamble Co. and General Foods. D'Arcy was founded by William C. D'Arcy in 1906 and brought with it such clients as Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and General Tire & Rubber Co.
The merged agency, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, was led by D'Arcy's Hal Bay as president-chief operating officer and B&B's John Bowen as chairman-CEO. It had offices in nine U.S. cities and 24 countries. Combined media-buying strength made D'Arcy No. 2 in radio, No. 3 in spot TV, No. 5 in network TV, No. 6 in outdoor advertising and No. 8 in magazine placement.
B&B's strong New York office complemented the midwestern strength of D'Arcy's St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago locations. The new shop also opened with several specialized units, including public relations firm Manning, Selvage & Lee; healthcare shop Medicus Intercon International; and business-to-business agency Poppe Tyson Advertising.
The combination was not entirely smooth, however. At the time of the merger, both D'Arcy and B&B had suffered major account losses. B&B's losses included Hardee's ($35 million), Nabisco ($17 million), Emery Air ($15 million), Tropicana ($15 million) and Zest ($10 million); D'Arcy's included Red Lobster ($30 million), Colgate-Palmolive ($50 million) and Michelob and Michelob Light ($60 million combined).
After the merger, worldwide billings continued to slide, dropping 5.8% in 1985, and rose only 1.3% in 1986, due largely to a 7% increase in overseas billings. The agency acquired offices in Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, but sold Poppe Tyson to Bozell & Jacobs. The outlook improved with worldwide billings increases of 11.5% in 1987 and 23% in 1988, when billings topped $3 billion. Additional business from existing clients such as P&G, Mars, Anheuser-Busch and General Foods increased $305 million in 1988, including the consolidation of General Foods' entire $250 million network TV budget.
After three years of work, the new agency scored big in 1989 with gains of $50 million from Maxwell House, $130 million from Burger King and another $390 million in new accounts. The agency also continued to acquire other shops, including a 49% stake in Sosa & Associates, San Antonio, which won the Spanish-language portion of the Burger King account.
Account gains continued into the early 1990s and included Knudsen Dairy, the International Olympic Committee, Hyatt International, Montgomery Ward & Co., Mexicana Airlines and the American Plastics Council.
In 1991, D'Arcy became the largest TV buyer in the U.S., with billings topping $1.4 billion in part due to P&G's consolidation of $700 million in spending at the agency. It gained another $450 million in media buying assignments from Southwestern Bell, Pearle Vision, Kraft General Foods, Pillsbury, Pet, M&M Mars and North American Philips, as well as global media planning assignments for Coca-Cola (in 1995) and Avon (in 1997).
In 1994, the agency had more than $5 billion in worldwide billings. For the U.S. offices, however, it was the beginning of two straight years of losses, including Burger King creative ($160 million), FTD ($45 million), Blockbuster Music ($35 million), Whirlpool ($35 million), Kraft ($60 million), Amoco ($40 million) and Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser ($100 million), which departed after 76 years, shortly after the well-known "Frogs" TV spot debuted.
Reform and revitalization
To revive its North American business, the agency restructured procedures for internal communications and built up a tier of management to provide consistency among offices while enabling local directors to work more closely with clients. The reorganization also sought to turn the loose federation of agencies and offices into a cohesive network and to position the New York office as the leader of the U.S. network.
In 1996, D'Arcy acquired N.W. Ayer & Partners, whose New York office had more than $500 million in billings, and the agency reorganized under a holding company structure, with D'Arcy the largest unit of the MacManus Group. Its largest global clients were Mars, Royal Philips Electronics, General Motors Corp. and Procter & Gamble. The following year, the agency's New York and London offices reached $1 billion in billings.
In 1999, the agency joined with Leo Burnett Co. to form BDM, which was renamed Bcom3 Group within a month. In 2001, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles has worldwide gross income of $762.8 million, up 6.1% from the year earlier, on billings of $9.47 billion, up 11.7%.
In 2002, D'Arcy closed the office in St. Louis in which the agency was founded in 1906; it had shrunk to about 40 employees. Later in 2002, Publicis Groupe acquired Bcom3 Group. By that time, D'Arcy had lost both Mars and P&G's Pampers accounts and was suffering weakness in Europe.
In a surprise move, Publicis closed D’Arcy in fall 2002, dividing its accounts between its existing agency networks.