This year, Mr. Bell expects to make a number of expeditions around the world with the same purpose the 19th century naturalist had: to study evolution.
But in Mr. Bell's case, he'll be studying the evolution of the world's 19th-largest ad agency.
Mr. Bell, 52, added the Bozell Worldwide CEO title to his chairmanship April 4, when his boss, Chuck Peebler, chairman-CEO of parent Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, relinquished the agency reins to focus on holding company matters such as acquisitions and strategic alliances. The move had been expected.
Mr. Bell is quick to point out that Mr. Peebler, with whom he has worked closely for 21 years, won't be the only one concentrating on acquisitions.
"A priority for us is building up critical mass outside the U.S., including through acquisitions," said Mr. Bell, speaking from Bozell's Mexico City office.
Bozell has been one of the industry's fastest-growing agencies, increasing billings 19% in '94 and 21% in '95, to $2.1 billion-a feat made especially impressive considering that only about a quarter of its billings come from outside the U.S., where industry growth levels are higher.
The agency sometimes finds itself betwixt and between: too small to win big pieces of multinational business and too big to generate interest from U.S. advertisers looking for a smaller, more agile shop. Yet Messrs. Bell and Peebler have been successful at marketing Bozell's place in the pecking order as a strength.
"Bozell stands alone-both larger and smaller, by far, than our nearest competitors," Mr. Bell said. "We've got lots of room to grow, while still maintaining a hands-on management style and honoring our `close to the customer' operating style."
Mr. Bell has for two decades helped Bozell evolve into its unique spot. He has been with the agency since 1975, when it bought Knox Reeves, Minneapolis, where Mr. Bell was president. Later this month, he will become chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
IN TOUCH WITH CLIENTS
Mr. Bell played a big role in Bozell's recent win of the $50 million Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile account, beating out smaller shops. He also stays closely involved with matters for clients Chrysler Corp., Unisys Corp. and Valvoline.
Other recent successes for Bozell include this month's referendum renewing the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board's commitment to Bozell's "milk mustache" campaign, doubled to $110 million a year. Bozell also recently won about $20 million in new business from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in an agency realignment, including the Ban antiperspirant account and parts of Mead Johnson Nutritional Group.
In the consolidation game, however, wins often get coun-tered by losses, and Bozell lost about $40 million in billings in Tyco Toys' recent decision to consolidate.