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J walter thompson usa's loss of Eastman Kodak Co., its client of 67 years, and Citicorp's Asia/Pacific account were among the low points of the agency's year. But if things go according to Chairman-CEO Chris Jones' plan, those setbacks will be just an ugly phase of a metamorphosis before the venerable monolith transforms itself into a creative hot shop.

Already, some of his changes, such as better central coordination of new-business pitches, are paying off. The Chicago office picked up the $70 million Dell Computer Corp. branding account in a joint effort with New York, which itself picked up the $82 million launch of Helene Curtis' ThermaSilk haircare brand. But, the office also suffered some managerial turmoil in late 1997 when New York CEO Susan Giannino and Worldwide Creative Director Helayne Spivak departed abruptly.


With most of the pieces in place, the test of Mr. Jones' strategy is under way. Questions remain, however, on factors such as how parent WPP Group's patience will play out.

Bob Jeffrey, appointed in early March to replace Ms. Giannino in New York, is regarded as a strong manager and mindful of creatives, and his appointment is expected to be a strong boost to the office.

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