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 Johnson
~ ~ ~
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 & Partners.
How things have changedSelected major agency mergers and closings since 2000
Source: Ad Age DataCenter