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McCann-Erickson Worldwide Chairman-CEO John Dooner acknowledges the vulnerability of today's independent midsize agencies-to a point.

While agencies in the middle face an uncertain future due to the "global explosion of brands," "it doesn't mean they need to disappear," Mr. Dooner said in an interview with Advertising Age.

A case in point is McCann parent Interpublic Group of Cos.' agreement last week to acquire Anderson & Lembke, one of the nation's premier business-to-business shops. The agency, with $200 million in billings and offices in San Francisco, New York and Amsterdam, will continue to operate independently, but will report to Mr. Dooner.

"They clearly share the dream of being the best," Mr. Dooner said of Anderson.

Talks began about eight months ago after Bo Ronnberg, creative director of Ronn-berg/McCann, Stockholm, introduced Mr. Dooner to Anderson President-CEO Hans Ullmark.

"We shared a very clear, cultural desire," Mr. Dooner said, and that ultimately led to last week's agreement.

Anderson & Lembke has a strong base in information technology with clients such as Microsoft Corp., Agfa, AT&T, Motorola, 3Com Corp., Ericsson, Autodesk and Global Village Communications.

"This is a great fit," said Chairman Steve Trygg. "Our clients will benefit from the McCann-Erickson international network. And we hope to bring our own flavor of creativity to the party."

Anderson "is able to compete with much larger networks because of their creativity," said Abbott Jones, managing partner of AdMedia Corporate Advisors, an investment banking firm that values agencies.

In 1991, the shop was named first-ever Agency of the Year by Advertising Age's Business Marketing. Since then, the agency's scope has broadened to include consumer accounts.

The deal could relieve some of Microsoft's concerns Anderson was too small to handle $70 million in product business for the software giant.

"Microsoft was afraid we would combust, that they had all their eggs in a very small basket," said Courtney Buechert, Anderson management supervisor on Microsoft.

"Small" is not a word anyone would use to describe McCann, but "growing" definitely fits. The agency, with an estimated $7 billion in worldwide billings last year, has won $500 million in business from new or existing clients in the first eight months of 1995, and that doesn't include incremental spending increases. Brazil and Japan alone accounted for $40 million each in new billings.

McCann is definitely in an acquisition mode, having recently bought a Finnish agency in addition to the Anderson deal. Mr. Dooner acknowledged the ad business is booming on the West Coast and that Interpublic is interested in additional acquisitions. But he said his focus in evaluating deals will be on a shared vision of creative excellence, not geographic location.

"It is reasonable and responsible that the agency that created the point of view for the brand continue to work on it," he said.

A definite client synergy has led to speculation Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., may be on Mr. Dooner's wish list, although he said no talks have been held between the agencies.

Wieden's $320 million in billings include $150 million in Microsoft work. McCann has Microsoft business in Japan, and will add to that base with Anderson. Wieden is also the main agency for athletic shoe giant Nike; McCann has been servicing Nike in several South American countries for the past year; and the two share duties on the business in Japan in an unusual alliance. Both are also on Coca-Cola Co.'s roster.

Wieden Director of Account Services David Luhr said last week the agency is not for sale and is and will remain steadfastly independent.

Alice Z. Cuneo and Bradley Johnson contributed to this story.

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