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STRUCTURING SHOP TO BEHAVE MORE LIKE A LAW FIRM MESSNER VETERE ROBERT SCHMETTERER

By Published on .

As long as there have been agencies, there have been clients who complain they never see the executives who run them.

That's not the case at one of New York's more innovative shops, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, where every executive responsible for client business is a partner.

To date there are 13 and each has a stake in the shop. As long as the agency adds accounts, the list of partners below its letterhead also will grow. Their varying stakes in the agency are balanced by Paris-based Euro RSCG, which owns between 60% and 65% of the shop.

"Our concept from the outset was that a law firm is a better model for a corporate structure than an ad agency is," says Partner Robert Schmetterer, who acts as the primary spokesman for the five agency namesakes. "Our promise, what we say to clients is, `The people who own the agency are involved in your business.'*"

The agency is named for ad vets Tom Messner; Barry Vetere; Ron Berger (creative); Louise McNamee, who also holds the title of president for new-business purposes; and Mr. Schmetterer.

Mr. Schmetterer is increasingly invited to speak at functions about the "re-engineered" agency, and it's at these times he admits to industry peers the agency's protracted name "has gotten more ink than anything else we've done"-even though the agency handles such big-time advertisers as MCI Communications Corp.

After hearing Mr. Schmetterer address the American Association of Advertising Agencies this spring, Jay Chiat quietly scrapped titles at Chiat/Day's virtual offices. Top executive title changes are also in the works at N W Ayer.

But there's more that's different behind the moniker. The agency's genesis, in the late 1980s, coincided with the new affordability of desktop technology.

Messner Vetere has 1.5 Apple Macintosh computers for every staffer and seven state-of-the-art editing suites where it produced 700 TV commercials last year.

"We're linked not just to each other but to our clients now," says Mr. Schmetterer. "All of our clients are online."

The agency also boasts four "war rooms" that serve as permanent space for its MCI and Volvo accounts.

"Historically, agencies have been unable to transition from one generation to the next without huge upheaval," Mr. Schmetterer says. "The idea here is that there is no second generation; there's a first generation that gets bigger."

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