Bruce Nelson Left IPG During Last Year's Bank of America Controversy

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NEW YORK ( -- Bruce Nelson, the controversial former Interpublic Group of Cos. executive who departed the ad company during last year's Bank of America review, is following the $600 million account he once ran to Omnicom Group.
Bruce Nelson, who left Interpublic last year, has been named vice chairman of its rival, Omnicom.
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Mr. Nelson will join Omnicom on March 6 as a vice chairman, according to executives familiar with the situation. He will not work on the BofA account. Instead, he will be taking on a number of functions including business development and working on the Omnicom management training program.

As exec VP-chief marketing officer, Mr. Nelson led an Interpublic team in a successful 2002 pitch for the Bank of America business and then directed a group of about 15 agencies on an account that Interpublic touted as an example of how ad agency holding companies can serve clients. That relationship, however, became a case study in the danger of one executive exerting a large amount of clout on a crucial account.

Mr. Nelson left in August, in the midst of the review. Following the pitch, the biggest of 2005 and one in which BofA invited Omnicom and WPP Group to participate, the bank settled on Omnicom. The loss to Interpublic was large, especially since the holding company was then in the midst of an accounting investigation that would eventually lead to an earnings restatement.

Omnicom Exec VP Susan Smith Ellis leads the Bank of America account there and agencies working on the account include BBDO, Prometheus and Ketchum. That is not expected to change.

The case of Mr. Nelson, who is known to be a favorite of Bank of America Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Bessant, now stands as a poster boy for the dangers of putting too much clout on one account manager. Mr. Nelson, who publicly said Interpublic wasn't committed to the holding-company model, was also said to be disappointed that he wasn't given a more senior title within the company.

His noncompete agreement with Interpublic forbids him from soliciting or handling business, according to an executive familiar with that agreement. Mr. Nelson's role is a corporate one, including coordinating Omnicom agencies in a business-development capacity.

Mr. Nelson couldn't be reached for comment. An Omnicom spokeswoman declined comment.

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