Bates has been building up below-the-line capabilities, but its creative reputation remains lacking. While it produced some striking creative for former client Footlocker, its best-known work is still that on Wendy's International, featuring founder Dave Thomas. The agency pitched record amounts of business, winning more than $200 million, but the lion's share came from existing clients, including Warner-Lambert Co. and Carter Wallace. CVS and Resort Condominiums International were reeled in from outside, while it lost Texaco and resigned Footlocker.
The split up of Cordiant last December, which separated Bates from sister shop Saatchi & Saatchi, is expected to open up the package-goods arena to Bates, previously in conflict because of Saatchi's relationship with Procter & Gamble Co. But, with only 14% of stock in the hands of management and no solid takeover defense, Bates and new parent Cordiant Communications Group could become a target of other holding companies later this year.
Added problem: a dearth of creative accomplishments and a need for new creative direction to complement its brand-building strategies and other capabilities.