Published on .

If the real estate business is about location, location, location, the lesson from the events that overtook GGT Group and its Wells BDDP agency is that agencies live or die on leadership, leadership, leadership.

Leadership lapses helped drive Procter & Gamble Co. from Wells BDDP, a loss that then pushed GGT into the arms of Omnicom Group. If GGT stockholders approve its $235 million bid, Omnicom will get control of GGT's valued agency properties in the U.S.,

such as GSD&M and Martin/Williams in addition to troubled Wells. It also wins BDDP Worldwide, with offices in Europe, North America and the Far East, and GGT Advertising in the U.K. and Europe.

At various times over the years, there have been questions surrounding the leadership of Wells. Those became more urgent in the last year as, first, Creative Director Linda Kaplan Thayer and then President and key P&G management liaison Paula Forman walked out. Ms. Forman, who had quarrelled with Wells CEO Frank Assumma, was followed by the P&G account team.

One reading of Wells' problems is that P&G had left it a house divided, bitterly so after P&G forced Wells to resign its Bristol-Myers Squibb business last year. But any agency choosing to work for P&G knows the price of being on the roster: Be conflict free. And there's another requirement: Always have a senior member of the agency on intimate terms with key P&G executives on the business.

Mr. Assumma evidently chose not to play by those rules. But GGT Group management should have been up on what was going on at one of its agencies-especially when it affected a major client that accounted for so much revenue (about one-sixth of GGT's total revenue).

The future of GGT's agency brands as separate entities under Omnicom's umbrella is unsettled. The question that gives the most pause, though, is what becomes of the Wells brand now? And how did it fall so far, so fast?

Perhaps the seed of the problem was planted when GGT bought BDDP last year and let Wells continue to report through BDDP rather than directly to managers at the holding company. Or maybe the top leadership, at Wells, BBDP and GGT, just forgot what it is that makes clients and agencies click. It's leadership. With it, an agency can ride out the bumps. Without it, it won't. It's a lesson that came with a hefty price tag for GGT execs: their dreams of an independent future.

Got ideas?

The dairy industry gets good mileage from its "milk mustache" and "got milk?" advertising, but nifty ads alone can't

solve its sales blahs. The heavy lifting remains to be done by dairy marketing executives at the product level.

A few dairies, as we reported last week, are trying to put some pazazz into the marketplace with new packaging, flavors, serving sizes and promotional ideas. But attitudes are hard to change. At a time when even water

is marketed as a beverage, one dairy senior manager said "it's sexy and fun to talk about how we're in the beverage business, but I'm not really sure we are."

As the dairy business consolidates, and more financial resources are put behind product marketing, it might yet find a way out of the doldrums. And there are those confident it will become more innovative.

Dean Foods VP-Marketing Jim Page had it right when he tipped his hat to the "mustache" and "Got milk?" ads for creating awareness if not notably higher sales. "Our job," he said of the new breed of dairy marketer, "is to take this to the next level."

Most Popular
In this article: