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Management change was the big story at Y&R Advertising, New York, in 1999. Young & Rubicam Inc. CEO Peter Georgescu stepped down at the end of the year. When expected successor Ed Vick turned down the job., and was named chairman-chief creative officer, Y&R appointed Burson-Marstellar President-CEO Tom Bell as its president-chief operating officer.

Also coming on board was Graham Phillips, as chairman-CEO of the ad agency.

Both executives -- particularly Mr. Phillips -- are concerned about raising the creative bar at Y&R. They instituted a worldwide philosophy of "inspired simplicity" in late 1999.

A positive step in that direction was the hiring of Jim Ferguson as chief creative in the New York office from chief creative officer of DDB Needham's Dallas office.

Creative bright spots included a sharp local Bronx Zoo ad and solid work for Gifts.com with the theme,"Just the perfect gifts." However, much of the agency's advertising was uninspired.

Y&R didn't have quite the bang-up year in terms of high-profile new business accounts as it did in 1998. The agency did pick up Barilla Co., Jim Beam Brands Worldwide and a handful of dot.com companies for a 16% increase in billings.

Looking ahead

This will likely be a transition year as clients settle in with Messrs. Bell and Phillips.

In 1998, the agency ran into trouble with government accounts: The U.S. Postal Service, which shifted out creative business while leaving media and ethnic advertising; and the U.S. Army, which just began a search for a new agency. That makes the Y&R work for Census 2000 just hitting airwaves even more crucial.

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