Moves Comes as Agency Continues to Lose Major Accounts

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NEW YORK ( -- Linda Sawyer, long the No. 2 to adman-cum-TV star Donny Deutsch at Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Deutsch Inc., has been named CEO of the New York City headquartered agency.

The announcement comes nearly one year after Mr. Deutsch pledged to clarify the duties being carried out daily by his senior-most executives by giving them titles that reflected their activities. "I’ve pulled back dramatically and let other people step up," Mr. Deutsch said last December, when his CNBC TV show moved to five-days-a week.

Said Ms. Sawyer this week: "This is not a new role for me. It’s a continuation of what I’ve been doing."

In addition to Ms. Sawyer, 44, who moves from COO to CEO, four other executives, all managing partners, are ascending as co-presidents. In New York, these are Val diFebo, currently general manager, and Kathy Delaney, executive creative director and in Los Angeles, Mike Sheldon, general manager and Eric Hirshberg, executive creative director. "It is critical we recognized the leadership roles these people play," said Ms. Sawyer, COO since 2001 who’s been with Deutsch Inc. since 1989. In addition, she said that she’ll in the near future appoint someone to fill the chief operating officer role.

Turbulent times
Although widely anticipated, the appointments come at turbulent time for the agency. Since the fourth quarter of 2004, many of the agency’s largest accounts have left, from creative duties on Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to Revlon (media and creative) to Monster Worldwide and Bank of America. And once a steady performer in new business competitions, Deutsch this year failed to reel in new accounts of a substantial size. It was a finalist in the $300 million Lowe’s review, which recently moved to Omincom Group’s BBDO Worldwide.

"There’s no denial about the losses," said Ms. Delaney. "but there’s nothing broken here. I have to say that with the utmost confidence. The same people who have been here kicking ass for years are doing it now."

The recently promoted tier of executives below Ms. Sawyer have been with Deutsch for over five years each, and each maintain that the agency hasn’t lost its way. "We’ve always been an agency people pay a lot of attention to," said Mike Sheldon, co-president of Los Angeles. "People scrutinize us. Our priorities are about doing a brilliant job for existing clients and then pitch new business."

Still, Ms. Sawyer is plotting a roadmap to put Deutsch back on track. It includes new service offerings that build off of the agency’s current base of knowledge in areas like pop culture, branded entertainment and media. Exec. creative director Eric Hirshberg and newly appointed co-president in LA recently completed a project for Bon Jovi which included directing a music video as well as designing a CD cover and in-store merchandising material. "We were being asked to take a piece of entertainment and give it some marketing savvy. What’s to stop us from making the California Cheese movie?" he said, partially tongue-in-cheek, referring to a client for which the agency has created happy, animated and popular talking cows.

Though reluctant to elaborate on Deutsch’s new direction, Ms. Sawyer did say, "It centers on a very different way of thinking about what we deliver."

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