Client Defections Have Hurt Once High-Flying Consultant

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Its glory days behind it, former hot shop Fusion 5 is in discussions with its parent company, WPP Group, and WPP's Young & Rubicam network to form a joint-venture that will put the agency under the auspices of Y&R, according to a knowledgeable executive.

The joint-venture will make available Fusion 5's strategic planning and new-product development capabilities to all the marketing services agencies that are part of Young & Rubicam, such as Kang & Lee, Wunderman and Y&R Advertising. The move also aims to reinforce the once high-flying shop, which has suffered significant client losses in recent months.

Blue-chip clients
Just a year ago Fusion 5 was ranked as one of WPP's fastest-growing units, boasting a roster of big-shot clients from SAB Miller and Coca-Cola Co. to DaimlerChrysler. The staff has since shrunk from a high of 70 to roughly 20 employees today, and only a handful of clients remain, according to knowledgeable executives.

Calls to Fusion 5's CEO, Dave Moran, and chief operating officer, Katia Facchetti, were not returned at press time. A Young & Rubicam spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter.

DaimlerChrysler, the agency's top client one year ago, ended a three-year contract last December; in recent months, SAB Miller's Miller Lite brand opted not to renew its contract, a spokeswoman for the brewer said. The agency has in the past handled projects for Coca-Cola Co., but is not currently engaged in any work by the beverage giant, said a Coca-Cola spokesman, who added that there is still a relationship with the agency.

Ford Focus giveaway
Fusion 5's specialty was providing strategic consulting and market insight -- but not advertising, in its traditional sense. The agency once successfully prodded Ford Motor Co. to provide 100 of the yet-to-be released Ford Focus to assistants of celebrities. The celebrity underlings then drove the cars to hip events, as a way to put the model in the minds' of stars and star-watchers. For Campbell Soup Co., the agency escorted brand teams to the homes of 50 consumers to help the marketer better understand how customers think and feel about cooking. Out of that effort came the "Tasty Tuesday" campaign, created by Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, which aimed to promote once-a-week meals built on Campbell's soups. Campbell's continues to use Fusion 5 on a project basis.

Founded in 1994 by Patrick Meyer and Robin Austin, Fusion 5 was sold to Tempus in 2000, which was acquired by WPP in 2001. Mr. Meyer left at the end of 2003, when his three-year contract expired, and Mr. Austin left several months later. In April they opened a new consultancy, dubbed Now. A number of other senior staff departed Fusion 5 last summer. Under the joint-venture agreement, Fusion 5's name will remain intact.

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