West Coast shops look east to court Big Apple business

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West Coast creative shops have long thumbed their noses at their larger, wealthier, cross-country cousins. Now, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and other California dreamers want to see if they can make it in the city that never sleeps.

"You've just got to fish where the fish are," said Jim Smith, managing partner at Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., which will open a New York office this year.

The numbers back him up. New York agencies handled $54.9 billion in billings last year, compared to $11.6 billion for Los Angeles and $6.7 billion for San Francisco, according to Advertising Age figures.

Goodby might pitch its tent in the Big Apple as early as next year. The move would allow the agency to be closer to New York clients, including its newest, Sirius Satellite Radio, which has offices across from Radio City Music Hall. It would also allow Goodby to retain homesick creatives with roots on the East Coast.

Goodby's willingness to enter New York is somewhat ironic since a dispute over just such a move led to the 1992 departure of agency co-founder Andy Berlin. He now runs his own New York agency, Berlin, Cameron & Partners.

Like Goodby, Ground Zero also has some East Coast clients, including ESPN2 and Sun International's Atlantis resort. It intends to court more through the New York operation. Ground Zero President Andrew Gledhill will relocate to New York to oversee the office.

Many East Coast-based marketers are "not interested in coming west anytime soon," said Ground Zero's Mr. Smith. He said the agency, which now claims billings of $115 million, has four prospective East Coast clients "already talking to us."

Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco, also is contemplating a full-service New York office. The agency recently transformed itself into a dot-com marketing factory of sorts, able to nimbly churn out work for new-media clients moving at new-economy speed. It hopes to export the system to the New York market to tap Silicon Alley opportunities, as well as other business.

Despite New York's appeal, Goodby Co-Chairman Jeff Goodby said the market remains daunting. He noted the hurdles such left-coast hot shops as TBWA/Chiat/Day and Wieden & Kennedy have had to overcome to build a presence in New York.

"There aren't that many successful out-of-town offices there," said Mr. Goodby. "It's not like anybody's gone [east] and made a killing."

Tom Carroll, president-CEO of TBWA/Chiat/Day's Playa del Rey, Calif., office, was previously a partner at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York. He knows both coasts and has advice for West Coast agencies considering a trip to New York.

"You've got to be game-ready for New York," Mr. Carroll said. "It's fast, and it's tough."

Ground Zero's Mr. Smith has a plan to raise his comfort level: "We're going to take an awful lot of sand out there and make the office feel like California."

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