The agency's physical relocation is just one of the challenges faced by Mr. Luhr and the agency's other partners in trying to ensure that one of the nation's most creative agencies-and one of the industry's few remaining independents-continues to thrive.
Since the agency's founding in 1982, President Dan Wieden has been commited to Portland, only briefly opening a Philadelphia office primarily to service the Subaru account.
The agency, now with $525 million in billings domestically and 350 employees worldwide, has traditionally cherry-picked its client list, depending on a stable of blue-chip brands such as Nike, Microsoft, Coke and Miller.
Messrs. Wieden and Luhr must now decide what their next move will be on a strategic level.
Mr. Luhr, who tends to shun press attention, joined Wieden in 1986 from Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, where he had been a management supervisor working on Yamaha scooters and Nike. He had joined Chiat in 1980 Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, later fold into what is now Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising.
Wieden's wake-up call came this spring when Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, picked up an estimated $50 million of business from Wieden's signature client, Nike.
"It is always distressing when you have an account and another agency gets into the fold," said Mr. Luhr, 42. "It's distressing, but something we face every day of the week."
Nike repeatedly has reaffirmed its commitment to Wieden, saying its account, at almost $250 million, has grown so large that two shops are required. Other marketing executives, however, said Nike was concerned Wieden was increasingly distracted by its other clients.
The result has been a number of office reorganizations and staff shakeups, such as last year's musical chairs between account managers on Nike and Microsoft and more recently the layoffs of about a dozen employees.
EXPANSION TO OTHER MARKETS
Wieden is now looking to establish a meaningful presence in other markets. Over the years, the agency has missed out on creative talent not willing to leave big cities like New York or Los Angeles for rainy Portland.
To shift some of the burden off the Portland creative staff, Mr. Luhr this summer moved servicing of the ESPN account from Portland to New York, where Wieden's new full-service office, previously with 15 employees who bought Nike media, will hire talent locally and grow to about 30 people.
"We want to do a lot of growth and to attract new people," Mr. Luhr said. "We have great expectations for that office."
The Amsterdam office is also looking to grow. "We have a very unique office, a multicultural, European agency [in Amsterdam]," Mr. Luhr said. "No one knows