DDB Germany chairman, CEO quits after six months

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DUESSELDORF -- Klaus Flettner, the 36-year old chairman and CEO of DDB Germany who was instrumental in maintaining the agency's hold on the $80m Volkswagen account, left the agency suddenly July 1, following disagreements with Chief Creative Director Paul Steentjes. He had been in the post six months.

Flettner recruited Steentjes, 46, earlier this year from J Walter Thompson Frankfurt, where he had been executive creative director for eight years.

Lucas Mees, president of DDB Northern Europe, will caretake the vacant post until a new incumbent - the fourth in a decade - is found.

DDB offered Flettner an alternative position within the agency, and, according to Flettner, the chance to buy back his former agency, but he turned down both proposals. Buehler Flettner & Partner Frankfurt merged with DDB's Frankfurt office last month.

Despite trade rumors of a rift between Flettner and Steentjes, Flettner's departure has come as a shock, particularly as the DDB management team under his short tenure has been praised by VW. Also, last month DDB Germany picked up the global corporate image account outside the U.S. for German chemical giant Bayer.

Officials at VW were unavailable to comment on the news. This is a crunch year for the automaker in its home market. It is relaunching its main model, the Golf, in the fall and it faces new competition from Mercedes-Benz's first small car, the A-Class car.

DDB, which clung onto the $80m VW business in Germany after a final shoot-out with Saatchi & Saatchi Frankfurt in April, has held the car manufacturer's account for 30 years, despite recent setbacks.

In 1994, VW discovered that DDB was covertly working for Mercedes in the U.S. on strategy for its planned sport utility vehicle and eventually took the agency off the U.S. business, awarding it to Boston's Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot in 1995.

The most recent German review was instigated by VW Chairman/CEO Ferdinand Piech's desire to see more creative advertising in the company's home market. DDB offices elsewhere had won creative awards for their work on the account but agency executives claimed that former VW Marketing Director H. Dieter Dahlhoff insisted on running uninspired, locally-produced ads in Germany.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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