HELP WANTED: C-E WINS SPARK AGENCY HIRING BINGE

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Campbell-Ewald overhauled its new-business practice two years ago in a deliberate attempt to reignite its growth engine. Now the agency has a more welcome set of problems -- it can't hire people fast enough to staff new accounts.

On a hot streak since late last year, C-E has added $300 million in new billings, rivaling the win records of larger, Madison Avenue shops. It has added such marketers as Raytheon and Careerpath.com, and picked up additional work from existing clients, such as General Motors Corp.'s regional dealer account consolidation, point-of-purchase work for Whirlpool Corp. and direct marketing assignments for Gerber Products Co.

Most recently, the Interpublic Group of Cos. unit added the $20 million OnStar communications system account from GM and Circus Circus Enterprises' new MotorCity casino. C-E's billings total in 1998 was $1.4 billion.

THREE A DAY

With all the new work comes a need for more staff. Since Jan. 1, C-E has hired an average of three people a day across all disciplines, raising its employee count to 1,300 -- and there are still 150 positions open. Meanwhile, the agency has outgrown its 10-story, 150,000-square-foot headquarters in Warren, Mich., and C-E has signed on for an additional 125,000 square feet in and around Detroit.

"It's a good challenge to have," Chairman-CEO Anthony Hopp said. "It's become a lot more expensive when you have this kind of volume to fill, with headhunters and recruiters. And we want to get them filled as quickly as possible."

Mr. Hopp said he expects the agency to continue with several big new wins through the end of the year. In fact, even as it ramps up staff, new work continues to flood in, such as Borders Group's $10 million retail bookstore account, which C-E won two weeks ago.

ATTRACTING TALENT

While the Detroit area is not as flush with agencies as are the East and West Coasts, Mr. Hopp said he hasn't had trouble attracting people to the shop. The agency is currently negotiating with "a big creative" from Los Angeles, he said, and many other employees have moved to the area to take jobs at C-E.

"I'm not sensing any undue problems in getting people to come to Detroit," he said.

Even so, there are areas left for the agency to conquer. When revamping the new-business program in 1997, Mr. Hopp and his associates made up a wish list of categories they'd like to have. A bunch of check marks later, they've got ones like gasoline, tire and car rentals still to go.

Mr. Hopp said the competition has gotten tougher over the past few years as agencies, many public companies, face the scrutiny and scrambling of posting double-digit gains each year.

"There are some tough choices for clients out there, with everybody going after

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