Still Y&R unit: Brand Buzz gains 'independence'

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Brand Buzz, the 4-year old agency launched within WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, is breaking away from its parent to become a separate entity.

As of April 1, the self-identified "creative solutions" agency will operate as a unit within parent Young & Rubicam, positioned similarly to siblings brand-identity firm Landor or health-care communications firm Sudler & Hennessey.

"This gives Brand Buzz the best of both worlds-the freedom to pursue their highly entrepreneurial style while retaining access to all of the resources of Young & Rubicam brands," said Young & Rubicam Chairman-CEO Ann Fudge.

From its start in January 2000, Brand Buzz, founded by Y&R Advertising veteran John Partilla, sought to distinguish itself from its traditional, full-service parent in several ways, most notably by fusing media planning with creative from the inception of every campaign. Today it executes ads for marketers including Absolut's Danska vodka and Plymouth gin; Dr Pepper/Seven Up's Schweppes and Sunkist; LG Mobile Phones; and Infinity Broadcasting in a variety of media, from interactive and direct to promotions, public relations as well as TV and print. In terms of media billings, Brand Buzz is the ninth-largest office within the Y&R Advertising network.

physical change

The separation includes both physical and organizational changes. Next month, the entity and its 60-employee staff moves to a separate floor in Y&R's New York office. Its management will report directly to Ms. Fudge rather than to anyone at Y&R Advertising. Mr. Partilla, who has not been shy about talking about wanting to run his own operation, will continue to lead Y&R Advertising's Sony Consumer Electronics account, while also leading Brand Buzz.

The separation is by no means a guarantee of success. In fact, one of the company's first tests will be demonstrating a capacity to win substantial accounts from marketers not connected to its parent. While Buzz has reeled in business from non-Y&R Advertising clients, Brand Buzz's largest accounts have come via relationships with Y&R. WPP was the source of another substantial piece of business, LG Electronics.

Some consultants wonder whether marketers' appetites for Brand Buzz's offering is sufficient to sustain a separate business. The upstart's success, they said, results from a deficit in Y&R's offering rather than a gaping market need. But Hayes Tauber, Absolut International Brands product manager, believes "This will help them stand out....It brings more enthusiasm to our brands."

"Brand Buzz from its start was a unique enterprise," Mr. Partilla said. "Our clients were brands that would not look to Y&R-they wanted to reach the market in a different way."

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