In 2004, MDC Partners pumped some cash into the firm to help aid a
turnaround, taking a minority stake in return. In November 2005,
Mr. Freeman brought in Jeff McClelland, a big agency executive with
time at Dentsu and Ogilvy, to become its first CEO. The idea was to
help the firm adapt to changes in the ad environment and help an
agency best known for TV spots to do some more multidisciplinary
integrated work. Mr. McClelland had some new-business success,
bringing in sandwich chain Quiznos and Bonefish Grill. But by 2008,
he was out, replaced with BBDO account man Clayton Ruebensaal, who
lasted just five months in the role.
In early 2009, MDC announced it was selling its 20% stake in
Cliff Freeman & Partners back to the agency. It had a total of
$800,000 invested in the business.
By a few accounts, Mr. Freeman did truly intend to make a go of
it after getting back his independence. With Baskin-Robbins still
onboard, the agency added at least two small clients, Michelin
Guide and Saudi Airlines. (It's unclear what will become of those.)
And it was one of the hundred or so agencies involved in the
cattle-call review of Zappos.
Early this year, the agency relaunched its website with a new
domain, clifffreeman.com, supporting it with a fairly extensive
industry PR campaign, and managing to garner awards. Reporters were
sent a code to be entered into the new site, whereupon he or she
received a personal greeting recorded by Cliff himself. There was
also a Facebook page, which currently has no administrators.
Few doubt that Mr. Freeman, 67, himself will resurface. The
question is where -- and that's one he's not answering. Asked
Friday in the elevator on the way into what was left of his office,
Mr. Freeman had no comment as he walked back to the cardboard boxes
that contained the remnants of his agency.
Contributing: Emily Bryson York, Rupal Parekh, Bradley
~ ~ ~
CORRECTION: Due to an editorial
error, the original version of this story mistakenly attributed a
campaign for Snapple featuring "Wendy the Snapple Lady" to Clff
Freeman & Partners. That work was created by Kirshenbaum Bond
How things have changed
Selected major agency mergers and closings since 2000
D'ARCY MASIUS BENTON & BOWLES
2000 U.S. AGENCY RANK:
Product of various agency mergers. Created such famed campaigns as
"This Bud's for you" (Budweiser) and "Look, Ma! No cavities!"
(Procter & Gamble's Crest). Publicis Groupe bought D'Arcy
parent Bcom3 Group in 2002 and jettisoned the D'Arcy network late
that year, dividing clients and key staff among Saatchi &
and Publicis Worldwide.
LOWE LINTAS & PARTNERS WORLDWIDE
2000 RANK: 14
Product of various mergers. Interpublic in October 2009 aligned
Worldwide, making Deutsch the North American hub of the Lowe
network. Deutsch is absorbing Lowe, New York, itself a successor to
a number of fabled agencies (Bozell; Lintas; Ammirati & Puris;
Scali, McCabe, Sloves).
2000 RANK: 17
Successor to Ted Bates & Co. ("Melts in your mouth, not in your
hands" for Mars' M&Ms) and Backer & Spielvogel. WPP bought
Bates parent Cordiant Communications in 2003 and quickly broke up
the Bates network. The brand still exists in Asia, where WPP's
Bates 141 today operates as a marketing-communications network.
2000 RANK: 25
Agency resulting from merger of Bozell & Jacobs (formed in
Omaha, Neb., in 1921) and Kenyon & Eckhardt ("If you can find a
better car, buy it" for Chrysler). Entered Interpublic in 2001 as
part of True North acquisition. Interpublic in 2003 folded Bozell
into Lowe and said, "The Bozell brand will be retired." The brand
came out of retirement; the agency's Omaha branch bought itself
back from Interpublic in 2004 and today operates as Bozell.
N.W. AYER & PARTNERS
2000 RANK: 94
Founded in 1869. Created such enduring slogans as "Reach out and
touch someone" (AT&T), "Be all you can be" (Army) and "A
diamond is forever" (DeBeers). Parent Bcom3 folded it in Kaplan Thaler
Source: Ad Age DataCenter