Battle to keep J&J is crucial as shop shapes channel-agnostic strategy

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Nick brien, worldwide CEO of UNIVERSAL MCCANN, spent his first year at the beleaguered Interpublic Group of Cos. media agency successfully putting out fires with clients no less significant than Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. This year, Mr. Brien and U.S. President Mary Gerzema will be focused on another major client, Johnson & Johnson, as the package-goods giant begins a review of its $2.5 billion global-media account. A loss could be a knockout blow to an agency that's seen its share of big departures in recent years. Retention, on the other hand, would be a huge validation of the changes Mr. Brien has made, chief among them a new communications-planning practice designed to shape channel-agnostic strategies and foster collaboration.

Universal McCann also hired some strong talent in 2006-including former MindShare executive Steve Soldano. Meanwhile, the agency also had some key departures, among them Jean Pool, who retired, and George Hayes, a 30-year veteran who sued his former employer alleging wrongful termination.

UM stayed off the new-business field as it concentrated on rebuilding, though it managed to pick up business from Nortel as part of a McCann Worldgroup win. It lost Maytag, a $95 million account, and Wendy's fled just last month.
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