Executives close to Ketchum and TBWA Chiat/Day said Omnicom is urging Ketchum's Pittsburgh and San Francisco offices to formally align with another Omnicom network, expected to be TBWA Chiat/Day. A combination of Ketchum in San Francisco and Chiat is expected to be made through a possible merger as soon as next month.
DECISION BY YEAREND
The fate of Ketchum in Pittsburgh will be decided by yearend, according to one executive, who expects at that time Ketchum will be absorbed by Chiat.
"Alignment will happen with one of the networks," said the executive. "We are not forcing it to happen today but it will happen. Everyone knows it will happen, but the sensitive issue has been the Ketchum name. It is expected that the Ketchum name will be dropped with respect to advertising."
Jerry Della Femina, chairman-CEO of Jerry & Ketchum, New York, said his shop will keep the Ketchum name, at least for the duration of his contract, which lasts a few more years.
"We have a totally different deal," he said. "We're not at all affected by what goes on at Ketchum. We may be the last entity in advertising that holds the Ketchum name."
Another executive close to Omnicom maintained a second option remains open: to let Ketchum continue to operate, but reporting to Chiat.
NO MERGER PLANS
Despite the overwhelming indications of a coming move, Chiat and Ketchum West Coast executives denied merger plans were under consideration.
Dianne Snedaker, president of Ketchum in San Francisco, called the chance Ketchum will be absorbed into another Omnicom entity "a one in a billion probability," though she said the $175 million agency has pitched new business with other Omnicom agencies.
One major account conflict for the agencies is Ketchum's $50 million Bank of America account and Chiat's $15 million Home Savings of America account.
"We are not resigning any business," said Bob Kuperman, president-CEO/west, TBWA Chiat/
Day, Venice, Calif.
In Pittsburgh, Chiat and Ketchum have been working closely since last spring, joining together for a winning pitch on 3M's Imation account and, some say, merging in all but name.
PARTNERED IN THE PAST
Ketchum Pittsburgh Senior VP-Director of Operations Mike Walsh said he did not know about plans for a merger but said Ketchum has "partnered with TBWA for new business and to take advantage of the resources that TBWA has, particularly in the global area."
Ketchum, Los Angeles, recently renamed Fathom, is currently vying for the $120 million Acura account. If it is doesn't retain the account, executives at the agency will likely be given the option of buying the shop.
In a separate blow to Chiat culture, veteran Executive Creative Director Marty Cooke left TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, after helping lead Chiat creatives through the merger with TBWA, to join Merkley Newman Harty as partner and executive creative director.
Creative Director Eric McClellan will now head Chiat's New York creative department.
Contributing: Pat Sloan, Mark Gleason