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After years of plugging away as a small creative shop under the Omnicom Group umbrella, Merkley Newman Harty leveraged the relationship to land some big wins in 1999. It won $100 million in billings when DaimlerChrysler decided to move Mercedes-Benz from Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, to an Omnicom Group shop, and it scored the U.S. portion of Fila's $80 million global account in a victory shared with Omnicom sibling TBWA Worldwide.

Existing client relationships worked in New York-based Merkley's favor too. It won additional billings from BellSouth Corp. and Forbes, for its Website, and shared with McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, an assignment to create a branding campaign for Citigroup, thanks to its previous work for Citi's Travelers Group.

Merkley also forged some new relationships. In August, it merged its Atlanta office with local shop Bayless & Partners and brought in former Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., creative Jerry Cronin to create Bayless/Cronin, a full-service outpost in the Southeast. At year-end, it announced it would absorb Omnicom sibling Consumer Healthworks, New York, a direct-to-consumer healthcare agency that brought in pharmaceutical clients Glaxo Wellcome and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Looking ahead

Mercedes-Benz, the largest account win in Merkley's history, started with staffers and creative brought over from Lowe. The first real test for the account will come when Merkley has to sell its first original work to the automaker.

Meanwhile, the shop will have to manage a growth spurt that brought it a 50% jump in billings and a large block of new staff.

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