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(June 14, 2001) -- Omnicom Group is merging two of its smaller agencies, the DDB Worldwide-owned Griffin Bacal and Moss Dragoti, an Omnicom shop.

Both are full-service advertising agencies. According to Advertising Age's list of top agencies, Griffin Bacal's billing were $119 million last year, and Moss Dragoti's were $75 million.

In the merger, approximately 13 Griffin employees will move over to Moss. The status of nine other Griffin employees has not yet been determined. Joan Chiarmonte, planning director, and Regis Albrech, management supervisor, will be reassigned to Moss. The Griffin name will be dropped, except in Canada, where Griffin Bacal Volny will continue to operate under as an independent DDB agency.

Griffin's clients -- Mott's, PepsiCo., Just Born, Life Touch and K'Nex -- will be handled by Moss. Griffin was well-known for its Kid Think unit, a children's marketing group, and LiveWire, an online family research panel. Moss will now take over operations of these units.

Griffin started the year with a jolt when the agency was forced to cut more than half of its staff following the loss of its principal client, Hasbro Inc., a $100 million account, to DDB New York in a review. Griffin scaled back from approximately 70 employees to 24. Half of the departing staff were absorbed by DDB New York, while the other half were laid off. In March, agency founders Tom Griffin, co-chairman and CEO, and Joe Bacal, co-chairman and creative services director, retired from the shop.

"This merger has been in the works for awhile," said an Omnicom spokeswoman. "For a few months the two agencies have been working on projects together. So the idea was to combine them. Paul [Kurnit, departing president and chief operating officer of Griffin] was one of the architects of the merger. It's a natural fit. Griffin is strong in planning, and Moss is strong in creative."

Mr. Kurnit, meanwhile, is opening Kurnit Communications and a subsidiary company called KidShop, effective July 5. Based in Chappaqua, N.Y., both companies are independent of Omnicom and already have a client list that includes AOL Time Warner's Parenting Group; Privo, a children's online permission-based marketing company; Entertainment Software Ratings Board; Jive Records/the Zomba Group of labels and the LL Kids division of LL Bean. -- Richard Linnett

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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