More than half of the agency's planners have left over the past few months and employees are waiting for word on still-to-be-announced layoffs. Now, two managing partners are planning to leave, including the shop's top account director on Unilever's Dove-sparking talk that the Windy City outpost's highest profile account could shift to the New York office, which already has grown increasingly involved in the Dove work following a reorganization at Unilever.
The two senior executives eyeing the exit are Michelle Edelman, managing partner-director of planning, and Deb Boyda, managing partner on Dove. Neither executive returned calls for comment.
The Chicago shop, which has about 190 employees, is in a tough spot. Unless management-Co-Managing Directors Linda Garrison and Joe Sciarrotta-prevents the departure of high-level talent and attract new business, it is in clear danger of becoming little more than a service office for global Ogilvy clients.
"Individual operating units are accountable for what they're delivering to the bottom line," said consultant David Beals, while not referring specifically to Ogilvy. If an office takes a hit, agencies must "decide whether to keep it running, keep it running with fewer people or fold it in. "
Ogilvy Chicago executives declined to comment. In a prepared statement, Ogilvy President Bill Gray said, "Ogilvy Chicago is a vital part of the agency's North American operations."
Ogilvy Chicago was founded in 1962 to service Sears, which loomed large on the agency's roster until the retailer last month consolidated its business with WPP Group sibling Y&R Chicago.
The loss magnified problems at the agency. While Ogilvy gained incremental work from existing clients, its new-business effort has been lackluster. Even before Sears moved its account, Ogilvy laid off 6% of its staff, citing "a general softness of the branding business of clients."
Ogilvy isn't the only Chicago-based WPP shop in a funk. JWT last week underwent its second executive shakeup in three years when president Barry Krause stepped down and was succeeded by Ros King, global business director for JWT's Kraft Foods business.
Mr. Krause was brought in to revitalize the office, which had a strained relationship with leading client Kraft Foods and had lost its grip on the $25 million Miller Genuine Draft account. While he had some success-winning the $46 million Nestle frozen dinner account-the agency also lost the $15 million Western Union advertising account and the $20 million Northwestern Mutual business.