The essence: Kaplan Thaler Group, best-known for schticky ads as the Aflac duck and Herbal Essence's orgasm, had a fairly quiet 2004, despite the agency's management relentless promulgation of its "Big Bang" theory that marketing messages must be so disruptive that they cannot be ignored. While the Publicis Groupe agency is known for its brand-building prowess, Kaplan is evolving to reach new targets and to emphasize products.
Net growth: Big-ticket wins of last year weren't repeated in 2004, although Kaplan Thaler suffered no losses, either. New accounts included Foxwoods Resort Casino and Compass Foods' Eight O'Clock coffee. Additional responsibilities gained from current clients Procter & Gamble Co. (Swiffer) and Aflac.
Management: Seven-year-old Kaplan Thaler's core executive team is stable. New business head Greg Davis left; replacing him is Mitch Caplan, former account director at Omnicom Group's Merkley & Partners, New York. The agency fortified its planning department with new hires and also intends to launch a buzz-marketing unit.
creative Quality and Effectiveness: New, animated spots for Pfizer's Celebrex engage but don't enthrall. Under pressure from rival L'Oreal's Garnier Fructis, Herbal Essence and Kaplan put the ten-year-old orgasm on hiatus and replaced it with younger-skewing creative based on up-and-coming vocal artists, including a tie-in with WB show "What I Like About You." Aflac unveiled plans in December to de-emphasize the duck in commercials in favor of the insurance company's products and services.