Mr. McCracken, non-executive chairman of Minneapolis-based McCracken Brooks, last year ceded his CEO title at the agency he sold two years ago to Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, since absorbed into True North Communications. Now, the 54-year-old, British-born Mr. McCracken is joining Morristown, N.J.-based Dugan Valva Contess in the new post of exec VP-general manager, Dugan Valva Contess Midwest/
West, based in Minneapolis.
The stunning career turn for Mr. McCracken coincides with the industry's annual Promotion Marketing Association convention, starting this week in New Orleans.
'THE JOY OF MY LIFE'
"McCracken was the joy of my life," he said in an interview. But "part of the joy was running an independent entity, fulfilling my own ambitions."
Mr. McCracken hastened to add that True North "is a very good holding company."
"Keith prepared us for his departure," said Mark Lenss, McCracken Brooks CEO. "For the past five months, he has left day-to-day management to [Chief Creative Officer] David [Strandberg] and me, and we are moving the agency forward."
He added that the agency will be exploring "every possible option," including changing the name McCracken Brooks.
In joining Dugan, Mr. McCracken, who is immediate past president of the Association of Promotion Marketing Agencies, is going to a larger, independent shop. According to Advertising Age rankings, Dugan is the 15th largest sales promotion agency in the U.S. with $23.1 million in gross income. That's nearly four times that of McCracken, which had $6.1 million in gross income in 1997. Dugan pegs its billings at more than $260 million.
The two agencies share one client, Coca-Cola Co. Dugan's other major clients include AT&T Corp., the National Basketball Association, Pillsbury Co., Schering-Plough Corp. and Unilever.
McCracken counts among its current clients Clairol, Colgate-Palmolive Co., Motorola, the National Fluid Milk Processors Education Program and Quaker Oats Co.
Dugan Managing Partner Neil Contess said his agency was making a headfirst plunge into marrying promotion and e-commerce. The shop recently bought two technology companies-Visient, an "IT enterprise solutions company," and Internet design shop Muffin-Head-to provide what Mr. McCracken called "end-to-end strategic solutions for both their on- and offline efforts."
Although many in the promotion industry are citing online as a growth area, few shops have actively begun exploring that avenue for clients.
"There's a terrible tendency for the marketing communications industry as a whole to be somewhat myopic," Mr. McCracken said. "When you go to the Four A's the theme is about accountability and measurability, but it may be too little too late. On the client side the volume is much louder."
He said that promotion, direct and Internet marketing are on the rise because "they are so measurable," adding that "increasingly the [Dugans] are being asked