After Sept. 11: Fallon's New York office recuperates

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A year ago, it seemed Fallon Worldwide, New York, was in serious trouble.

The Publicis Groupe agency, situated just two blocks from Ground Zero, evacuated its entire staff on the day of the terror attacks. It moved back to its ravaged offices in October, but the bad news continued. Client Conseco, despite well-received corporate branding work, cut out advertising on what was a $30 million account. "We didn't lose business, we lost revenue," said Alison Burns, president of Fallon's New York office, adding,"For an office of our size that was significant revenue."

Conseco wasn't alone. "Clients stopped spending," said Ms. Burns. By early 2001, business was bad enough that rumors swirled the shop would never grow beyond a creative adjunct for the Midwest flagship. At the close of the year, Fallon had cut 30 staffers, including most of its creative department, leaving its total headcount at 40-less than half its staffing and billings from just two years earlier. "After 9/11 and the end of last year, we had to go through tough times and we weren't incredibly busy, we weren't making a lot of ads," recalled Kevin Roddy, executive creative director.

Now, however, it looks as if Fallon is staging a comeback.

The Gotham shop has picked up steam in new business, winning a high profile $20 million to $30 million new account from L'Oreal, on top of SoBe radio duties worth $5 million from PepsiCo. The agency came in a bridesmaid on pitches for The Wiz and Vtech Holdings, and is currently in the running for Scottish & Newcastle's Newcastle brown ale.

"The rebuilding is starting to happen," said Ms. Burns, noting that "it took several accounts to restore" lost revenue from Conseco.

"It's a relief to know the department is building again," said Mr. Roddy, who has relied on the Minneapolis flagship for the past seven months. "Now we're really busy and that helps get people excited again."

new hires

Fallon has made its first new hires by Mr. Roddy since since he took the helm last year. Ellen Steinberg, 33, takes the No. 2 spot as creative director after freelancing with the agency since leaving the Minneapolis office in 1998. Scott Cooney, 30, a copywriter from the Minneapolis office, is also joining the New York staff.

The agency has introduced recent campaigns for Starbucks Corp.'s Frappuccino and basketball shoe marketer And1, and next week breaks its first effort for Timberland Co., which it won last year.

Backed by a 45% increase in Timberland's print media budget, Fallon's six-execution, $15 million to $20 million global campaign urges explorers to "seek out" something other than the unfriendly confines of the indoors. Out-of-home breaks Aug. 15. Print executions break Aug. 30 with a manifesto ad in national daily newspapers and September issues of lifestyle and vertical outdoor sports publications.

"The notion of `seek out' is pretty aspirational. [It] works on a number of different levels,"said Frank Bifulco, Timberland's chief marketing officer. He said the effort also captures the essence of the brand as a way for consumers to "seek out their own path ... as well as social justice."

Fallon may be bouncing back, but in many ways the events of last year changed not just the agency, but its clients, including Timberland. Many Timberland employees, along with some Fallon employees, were at Clara Barton School in the Bronx doing community service on Sept. 11, and Timberland plans to return there on the anniversary.

"Nine-eleven impacted everyone on an emotional level. But as far as our dealings with Fallon, there never was any anxiety," said Mr. Bifulco.

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