McCann Sets Up Outpost for Xbox Creatives

Agency Latest to Spin Off New Shop in Order to Get Young Talent to Stay Put

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If you can't keep 'em, bankroll 'em.

That's the trend for agencies on the West Coast trying to keep top talent on major accounts from moving on or being poached. The latest example is McCann Worldgroup, which is spinning off a shop helmed by the creative team on its Xbox business.
Matt Ross, exec VP, McCann Worldgroup, San Francisco, and CEO on the global Microsoft account.
Matt Ross, exec VP, McCann Worldgroup, San Francisco, and CEO on the global Microsoft account.

About 10 McCann employees will be setting up shop as a Tag youth-marketing division, similar to units affiliated with McCann offices in New York and Tokyo, according to Matt Ross, exec VP, McCann Worldgroup, San Francisco, and CEO on the global Microsoft account.

The shop will be led by a team of four: Mike Harris, partner-strategic director; the creative team of Scott Duchon and Geoff Edwards; and Nils Peyron, general manager. (Mr. Peyron will maintain his position of running the Microsoft advertising business and work as director-client services as the main agency.)

Popular strategy
The decision to spin off the unit reflects an increasingly popular strategy by holding companies to help established, larger agencies tap into younger talent.

A number of executives said some members of the new team were considering leaving McCann. Mr. Ross said the team had been recruited by agency 180, which was opening in Los Angeles and had "no shortage of suitors." He said, however, that McCann had long planned to create the unit as a focused "creative hothouse."

None of the partners returned calls seeking comment.

Earlier this year, Chuck McBride and Brad Harrington toyed with the idea of forming an independent shop but wound up becoming a unit of Omnicom Group under the Cutwater moniker.

The shop provided Omnicom with a way to shield conflicts, and Cutwater immediately won the Chrysler Group's Jeep account. (Sibling TBWA handles Nissan globally.) It also is handling work for Motorola, a conflict with TBWA's Apple iPhone.

No expansion plans
At McCann, the agency will handle creative for Microsoft's Xbox, along with another undisclosed client. There are no plans to expand the office into a full-service agency, and some of the Xbox work remains at the main shop, Mr. Ross said.

McCann, anchored by the global Microsoft account, is the largest agency in San Francisco, with 650 employees, followed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, with 450.

Microsoft spent $447 million in measured media in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Although Xbox spending was only $41 million, it was one of the more high-profile brands in the account. 72andSunny, Los Angeles, has shared work on the business.
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