Ross Roy, Web agency may link

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Omnicom Group is considering a plan that would link interactive specialist Organic Online with BBDO Worldwide's Ross Roy Communications.

Omnicom has a 17% stake in Organic, based in San Francisco. Ross Roy, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Omnicom agency BBDO dedicated to handling various marketing responsibilities for Chrysler Corp.

One plan under discussion would see BBDO acquire Omnicom's stake in Organic, and then expand that position, said an executive with knowledge of the talks.

The discussions come as Omnicom seeks ways to bring together the diversified agencies it has been busy gobbling up in recent years. In August, Omnicom's Eagle River Interactive and Agency.com merged. The new unit, called Agency.com, is housed under Omnicom's Communicade umbrella. Communicade also is home to new-media shops Razorfish, Red Sky Interactive and Think New Ideas.

TALKS WITH OTHER SHOPS

BBDO is said to be in talks with various Communicade shops as it seeks to bolster interactive capabilities. The agency is exploring alliances or investments that would help it reach that goal, said an executive close to BBDO.

Organic CEO Jonathan Nelson confirmed talks with BBDO and Ross Roy, but said he's also held discussions with Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day and other agencies. He said "there's nothing substantial" yet in terms of a deal.

Organic's clients include barnesandnoble.com and N2K's Music Boulevard; the agency has billings of more than $30 million.

Omnicom executives did not return phone calls. Tom Clark, president of BBDO North America, and Tim Copacia, Ross Roy president, also could not be reached.

Ross Roy and BBDO, Southfield, Mich., are negotiating new contracts with Chrysler Corp., which is said to have some concerns about Ross Roy's capabilities.

NO `MAJOR' COMPLAINTS

"I haven't heard any major complaints" about Ross Roy, said Bud Liebler, VP-marketing at Chrysler. But "interactive changes every 22 minutes, and we are on top of Ross Roy to stay on top of that."

Ross Roy, with billings in the neighborhood of $400 million, handles interactive media, direct marketing, brochures, training and customer loyalty programs for all Chrysler brands.

BBDO plans to "make a lot of changes" of staff at Ross Roy, said one agency executive. Those changes aren't related to unhappiness at Chrysler, the executive said. Rather, BBDO's PentaMark unit--which oversees and coordinates Chrysler accounts handled by BBDO, Ross Roy and PentaCom--wants to ensure smooth client service, the executive said.

"I think there may be some changes of people at Ross Roy," Mr. Liebler confirmed, "but they haven't told us what might be changed."

Contributing: Pat Riedman.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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