BBDO management is quick to note it didn't invent the concept, "but it seems to be working for us," said Jim Ward, newly named general manager of the office.
At least one client doesn't agree. Blue Cross of California earlier this month pulled its $12 million account from the agency after 51/2 years. The business represented about 4% of the office's billings.
Mr. Ward remains undaunted. While still head of the Apple account, he wrote what internally is called "The Book," a 36-page testament to the core team philosophy and the way the agency handles its mainstay client.
Essentially, the approach breaks down the traditional barriers between creatives, account management, traffic, and media planning and buying. All members can contribute ideas, whether in their particular area of expertise or not. So theoretically, every member is up to speed on all aspects of the account.
"It's like a constant virtual meeting," said David Lubars, who joined the agency late last year as exec VP-executive creative director. "It means that the client can call anyone on the team with a question and get a smart answer."
Implementing the philosophy is a little more difficult than articulating it. Since February, BBDO has required employees to attend an every-other-weekly meeting to examine the roles and responsibilities within a core team.
"It's very difficult to implement," Mr. Ward said. "Sometimes you want to say, `This guy's so good, I don't want to bother him.'*"
BBDO's Blue Cross loss can't be blamed entirely on the approach because the client's team hadn't been formed yet.
"We were just at the beginning of that," said David Pincus, Blue Cross VP-marketing. "They had talked about it but hadn't fully implemented it. I think it's an interesting philosophy, doing business in quite a different way. But in my mind, it's a stretch."
In its formal announcement of the split, Blue Cross said it was looking for an agency "with a more marketing-focused operational philosophy."
Finalists in the review are Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., and Los Angeles shops D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; Foote, Cone & Belding; and Ogilvy & Mather.