"The idea is to build expertise in four areas, and push new-business activity into those areas" based on the type of client being pitched, said David Sklaver, the agency's president and architect of the plan.
Currently, WRG is structured like many other agencies, with layers of account groups that rely on a centralized media and creative department. Although some shops have formed "clusters" or spinoff agencies to handle a single client, many rely on most of the same central resources as before.
Under the new regime at WRG, each team will be led by two managing partners, one an account exec and the other a creative director, who will assemble their own respective teams of media strategists, researchers and other creative and account service staffers.
An executive creative director, being recruited from outside the agency to replace the departed Mary Moore, will serve as an "arbiter of taste" across all teams, Mr. Sklaver said.
Vice Chairman Charlie Moss will continue in the roving role of corporate creative director and is unlikely to form a separate shop with director Stan Dragoti as previously rumored, Mr. Sklaver said.
One team will specialize in corporate advertising, handling work for Ford Motor Co., IBM Corp. and ITT Corp. Another will handle service companies such as Hertz Corp., ITT Sheraton Corp.'s hotels, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and Chase Manhattan Bank.
Two other groups will be assigned package-goods accounts: one for traditional category products marketed by clients Procter & Gamble Co. and Reckitt & Colman, and the other for image-oriented "self-enhancement" brands like Heuer Time & Electronics Co.'s Tag Heuer watches and P&G's Oil of Olay.
Mr. Sklaver said each team will have profit-and-loss accountability, and performance incentives designed to motivate "more informed decisions" about staffing and workloads. He wouldn't identify team leaders.
Clients and staffers familiar with the agency's new plan applauded it.
"It's a radically different concept at this place; I think it will be good news internally," said one senior executive.
"It's going to provide a mechanism whereby they'll be better able to deliver the full resources of an agency, in my case on a more integrated basis," said Aubrey Hawes, VP-corporate director of marketing resources at Chase Manhattan.
Persistent reports have linked parent BDDP Group to several potential suitors, including Saatchi & Saatchi Co., Euro RSCG and Dentsu. But last week, WRG Chairman Kenneth Olshan dismissed the reports in a staff memo as "trial balloons floated by would-be suitors."
Agency executives expect BDDP to refinance debt on its own.
Still, WRG itself was stung last year by two major losses: Continental Airlines' $60 million account, which moved to the Richards Group, Dallas, and longtime client Miles Inc.'s Alka-Seltzer brand, which moved $25 million in billings to Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago.
House of Seagram is the latest potential defector, said one executive familiar with its plans, and could soon move its Godiva and Coyote liquor brands, an estimated $10 million account, to TBWA, New York.