It seems like a year is all it took. In the turnaround of the decade -- maybe even longer -- J. Walter Thompson USA sprang back with a vengeance in 1999.
The agency stunned the industry with about $700 million in new U.S. billings, from clients including such heavyweights as Qwest Communications International, Elizabeth Arden Co., Salon Selectives, Miller Genuine Draft and Shell Oil Co.
JWT had a solid creative year as well, with the Kellogg Co.'s Raisin Bran Crunch TV commercial "Slackers" winning a Gold Lion at Cannes Advertising Festival. Its much-anticipated Merrill Lynch & Co. work also broke to mostly positive reviews, although later ads were better than the first corporate spots.
Management got back on track with the appointment of several key positions, including four top female execs: Charlotte Beers was named chairman of JWT Co.; Mary Baglivo, chief marketing officer and global business director on Warner-Lambert Co.; Marina Hahn, exec VP-strategy and entertainment; and Carol Potter, deputy global business director on Unilever. Pat Corry was named North American business director on Unilever, and Dan O'Donnell, global business director on Merrill Lynch.
With the top management team in place and a strong New York office led by Bob Jeffrey, JWT's biggest challenge lies in maintaining the winning streak and keeping key personnel.
Creative could also stand to come up a notch. While some work shone, most was average.