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MacManus Group's pending plan to shift N.W. Ayer & Partner's Procter & Gamble Co. accounts to sibling D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles is part of a move to reposition Ayer as a more creative shop.

Executives close to Ayer, one of the nation's oldest agency brands, said moving the P&G business would allow the New York agency to hire high-profile creatives who don't want to work at a "package goods agency."

The agency declined comment on the shifts, first reported earlier this month (AA, Feb. 8).


Ayer has tried to raise its creative profile in the past few years. In 1995, it hired West Coast creative star Mark Fenske to increase its creative firepower. That pairing, however, was ill-fated; Mr. Fenske ended up leaving the agency just months after joining.

Ayer, formed in 1869, has a reputation of working for buttoned-down clients such as P&G and General Motors Corp. But recent work for Continental Airlines and Avon Products has been drawing favorable attention.

Even if the P&G business moves, Ayer will remain a full-service agency, providing media planning and other services in addition to creative. Its media buying operation, though, will be shifted to MacManus' MediaVest unit.


DMB&B is already a major global agency network for P&G, and MacManus is expected to reach a decision sometime next month on whether to move the business -- which includes Folgers coffee, Puffs tissues and Hawaiian Punch beverages.

Executives with knowledge of the situation said relocating P&G's brands also is partly due to the marketer's new, looser policy regarding client conflicts. The shifts within MacManus would allow it to have greater efficiencies in servicing P&G, while strengthening DMB&B's relationship with the client. The marketer is in the process of consolidating its accounts at its key global roster agencies: DMB&B, Grey Advertising, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett Co.

A P&G spokeswoman wouldn't comment on the pending shift, other than to say, "We're going to continue to work with our agencies and our brands to figure out what is right for each individual brand."


The P&G discussion has further fueled speculation that the Ayer name could be completely folded into DMB&B down the line. Those rumors resurfaced when Ayer CEO Mary Lou Quinlan announced she was leaving that post to form a MacManus consultancy focused on women's marketing.

MacManus Chairman-CEO Roy Bostock said there are no discussions about folding Ayer into DMB&B or dissolving the historic Ayer name.

He added that a 1999 goal is to further develop the Ayer brand and its "human

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