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Razorfish Execs Leave for Microsoft After Publicis Deal

Jeff Lanctot, Jim Watson Depart as Company Looks for Synergy With Digitas

By Published on . 1

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As Razorfish is absorbed into Publicis Groupe, two top execs won't be coming along for the ride. Razorfish Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Lanctot and Managing Director Jim Watson, two 10-year veterans of the digital shop, are leaving for Microsoft, which acquired Razorfish as part of the aQuantive deal in 2007.

Jeff Lanctot
Jeff Lanctot
Mr. Lanctot will keep a close connection to Publicis. He'll oversee the long-term advertising and services deal between Microsoft and Publicis Groupe, which was part of the $530 million deal. Mr. Watson will join Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions team.

The departures come as Publicis closes on the Razorfish deal and begins the process of integrating the agency into the Paris-based holding company. Pubicis CEO Maurice Levy is said to want two strong, global digital agencies: Razorfish and Digitas.

Executives at both agencies are now delving into the global client rosters of each, as well as the relative strength of its offices worldwide, to decide where the two agencies will compete and where they will consolidate.

As part of that, Razorfish's health practice will report to David Kramer, CEO of Digitas Health. Two branded health practices will remain, with Razorfish's business, managed by Katy Thorbahn, reporting to Mr. Kramer.

Razorfish CEO Bob Lord and Digitas CEO Laura Lang will be leading the integration process, which will be the focus of the next few weeks. "Razorfish has a very different competitive set than Digitas does. In a way, it's not dissimilar to when we acquired Avenue A," he said.

One example: Razorfish has wanted to open a practice in India, and is now better positioned to do so by tapping into Digitas' network there.

The transition from Microsoft to Publicis has not been smooth for some Razorfish employees, which were informed recently that most of their Microsoft stock options won't be replaced by comparable compensation from Publicis.

Rumors of top executives leaving, or planning to leave, abound. Mr. Lanctot said he fully supported the Publicis acquisition, but "for me, personally, it was time to do something new." His title will be managing director-advertising and publishing solutions, and he'll oversee not just the Publicis deal but other Microsoft advertising commercial deals and joint ventures, reporting to Microsoft Senior VP Scott Howe. He expects to work closely with Microsoft senior VP-online audience Yusuf Mehdi and with Microsoft's top search exec, Qi Lu.

The hope is that the presence of Mr. Lanctot and Mr. Watson at Microsoft will deepen Razorfish's agency relationship with Microsoft, Mr. Lord said, adding that a replacement for Mr. Lanctot had not been named. Two internal candidates are under consideration, but he said he has yet to tap the full Publicis network for other possible candidates.

Mr. Lanctot starts full-time at Microsoft Jan. 1; until then, he'll be splitting time between Microsoft and Razorfish to smooth the transition. "I feel really good about being here, but I'm going to continue to root for Razorfish," he said.

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