TBWA shift aimed at settling its wild West

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A management shift at Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day West Coast marks another move to ground the agency known for legendary mavericks that helped birth the region's creative movement.

Michael Allen, former managing director of the Nissan/Infiniti account in TBWA/Chiat/Day's office in Playa del Rey, Calif., has been named president of the agency's San Francisco office. Mr. Allen, 38, and previously a Nike marketing director, will report to Tom Carroll, president of the Americas, TBWA/Chiat/Day, based in New York.

As part of the move, the estimated $75 million Adidas account, formerly split between Los Angeles and San Francisco, will reside solely in San Francisco, where creative is headed by Chuck McBride, North American creative director. Lee Clow, chairman-chief creative officer, TBWA Worldwide, said he expects that when the economy comes back, the San Francisco office "will be able to attract its fair share" of new business. Other accounts there include Starz Encore, Fox Sports, and the Wine Market Council.

The San Francisco office, which had more than 100 employees during the dot-com boom, dropped staff following the departure of Levi Strauss & Co., which pulled the plug on its $66 million account in January. According to the agency, 40 people are now employed in the office.

not deterred

Mr. Carroll said the shop is not deterred by the steep decline in business in the struggling Bay Area. "We're committed to San Francisco," he said.

Robert LePlae, 42, who served as interim president of the San Francisco office, continues in his duties as head of the 600 employee, $1 billion Playa del Rey shop that now includes the OMD media buying unit as well as the Tequila direct-marketing group.

Mr. Allen, in turn, will be replaced on the Nissan/Infiniti account in the Playa del Rey office by Tom Blessington, 40, managing director. Mr. Blessington comes to the agency after almost a dozen years at independent Wieden & Kennedy.

The new team takes over a shop storied for reinventing itself and for its attitude toward clients, often resulting in roster shakeups along with award-winning creative. "It was never smart not having good relations with clients," said Mr. Carroll, who has been on a mission to steady account services in recent years. He now calls the TBWA/Chiat/Day brand "grown-up" and "a little less crazy." The agency's current West Coast clients even include $50 million in package-goods brands such as Masterfoods USA's Uncle Ben's, Whiskas and Seeds of Change.

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