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Let Wells go with dignity

Not since grey advertising in 1991 shut down New York's Levine, Huntley, Vick & Beaver -- the shadow that remained of creative hot shop Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver -- has the fall of an advertising agency brand been so lamentable.

Wells BDDP, once the celebrated Wells Rich Greene, and then, under new owners, Wells Rich Greene BDDP, within a very short period of time is likely to be just another wisp of memory. Like Levine Huntley and Ally & Gargano, yet another once sublime creative force gone.

So let it go. Gently. Realize that this agency actually began its leave- taking not months but years ago when ownership changed, management fractionalized and the dynamics of the agency business shifted; even though, like Levine Huntley in its final months, it hemorrhaged accounts only after a key executive left and a major client followed.

At this point, it's improbable at best that Wells BDDP would be recast under another name even if there were another legendary leader on the scale of Mary Wells around to rescue it. Which there is not.

What Wells does have a chance to do -- something that Levine Huntley and Ally & Gargano did not -- is to exit with dignity. As part of London's GGT Group, Wells is expected to soon be owned by Omnicom Group. It's anticipated Omnicom will merge whatever is left of Wells into one of its existing agency networks, providing Wells a chance to disappear with a minimum of pain.

So let it go. Heroically. Salute its past glories, wonder at the blows that reduced it. But let it go.M

Logan's way

Astute readers of this week's Special Report on the magazine industry will quickly notice a common thread running through its pages. Of the five Best Magazines, three are published by Time Inc., including our Magazine of the Year, People. (The others are In Style and Cooking Light.) Time Inc. CEO Don Logan is our publishing executive of the year. In addition, a top Time Inc. managing editor was a strong contender for editor of the year honors, and a Time Inc. start-up was considered for launch of the year.

It's not a coincidence. Time Inc. has long been the industry's biggest player, but it hasn't always been its most innovative. Today, it's both -- and a look at how it got there reveals lessons applicable to every media company, agency network and megamarketer.

When Mr. Logan, a soft-spoken Southerner, succeeded Reg Brack as president of Time Inc. in 1992, he took on a company where morale had been wounded by recession, restructurings and political infighting. Insiders predicted he would end the internecine warfare. Said one at the time: "Don does not do politics .*.*. He focuses on the business."

She couldn't have been more right. Asked nearly six years later to describe his formula for success, Mr. Logan said he set about creating "an environment where we got rid of the bureaucracy and [got] people back to focusing on the core business. We got politics out of the way, threw out the organizational chart."

Essentially, Mr. Logan gave the presidents of each Time Inc. title autonomy to run their own businesses -- as long as they delivered strong bottom-line results in return. They have. Time Inc.'s cash flow last year hit an all-time high of $608 million, a 14% gain over 1996.

As we write in this week's issue, the Time Inc. environment today demands and rewards performance. It's an environment every company in the marketing and media worlds should try to replicate.

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