Under terms of the agreement, to be announced today, Mr. McBride, executive creative director-North America for TBWA/Chiat/Day, will head up Cutwater, an agency consisting of a majority of the employees -- and clients -- of TBWA's San Francisco office. TBWA will no longer have a presence in the San Francisco market.
'The right company'
"Omnicom is the right company to do this with," said Brad Harrington, 44, formerly co-president of WPP Group's Cole & Weber United, Seattle, and now president of the new shop. Mr. McBride, 44, will serve as chief creative officer. Many of the TBWA employees -- some of them featured as corpses in a video Mr. McBride sent out to announce the shop -- will join Cutwater. Clients moving to the new shop include Luxottica Group's Ray-Ban and Seagate Technology. The shop will also pitch for assignments from Jeep and Motorola.
In a statement announcing the formation of the shop, wholly owned by Omnicom, Omnicom CEO John Wren said, "Cutwater offers a fresh take on integration that is particularly relevant to clients in today's marketing and media environment."
Mr. McBride said the agency's name refers to the forward edge of a ship's prow, "the first and sharpest point to cut through the ever-changing sea." The name is a way of harking back to Chiat/Day's pirate-ship heritage, Mr. Harrington said. In addition to Mr. McBride and Mr. Harrington, Rob Klingensmith, previously a planning director for TBWA/Chiat/Day, will join the shop.
Another creative resource
The agency will give Omnicom another creative resource along with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, and GSD&M, Austin, Texas, among others, as it tries to keep mega-clients in its fold. It is the first new creative shop Omnicom has developed since it opened Merkeley & Partners.
As for TBWA/Chiat/Day, it is not the first time the agency has closed its doors in San Francisco. In 1990, Chiat/Day was sold to office president Fred Goldberg, whose Goldberg Moser O'Neill was later sold to Interpublic Group of Cos.
Chiat/Day re-entered the San Francisco market in 1998 to handle the Levi Strauss account. Mr. McBride was brought in to save the business -- the shop remained open after layoffs and benefited from the dot-com boom. Later, it picked up the Adidas business, which now will be serviced by affiliated Omnicom shop 180, with offices in Los Angeles and Amsterdam.
Paul Venables, who heads Venables Bell & Partners, welcomed the addition of the new agency: "San Francisco is becoming a densely populated hub of top-level creative people and that's how it should be," he said. "I wish him well." But Mr. Venables added, "Right now, independence suits us just fine."
"It's great for the city," said Jeff Goodby, co-creative director of sibling shop Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "Whenever agencies bring in new clients, it helps everybody."