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MullenLowe Group - as the former Lowe & Partners was renamed in 2015 - is the smallest of three global advertising networks within marketing giant Interpublic. Lowe has been the subject of a string of restructurings in recent years in an attempt to bolster chronically patchy performance. Despite often brilliant creative work, Lowe has traditionally had difficulty in the past hanging onto key global clients other than its longtime partner Unilever. The network's troubles arguably began in late 1999 when the original Lowe & Partners agency merged with ailing stablemate Ammirati Puris Lintas to form Lowe Lintas. That move was designed to enhance the respective strengths of two agencies which had hitherto lagged some way behind big sister McCann Erickson, but the Lintas name continued drag the agency down and it was finally phased out in 2001. Other realignments followed, often with limited noticeable improvement. Lowe's New York outpost was folded in 2009 into Interpublic stablemate Deutsch, which became the North American arm of the worldwide network. The struggling London office merged the following year with indie DLKW to form DLKW Lowe. Though these measures appeared finally to have returned greater stability to the network, there was another reshuffle in 2013 when Campbell Ewald replaced Deutsch as its US representative; then again two years later when Campbell Ewald was replaced by Mullen to create MullenLowe. Digital network Profero was acquired in 2014, as well as German agency GGH.
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Lowe & Partners struggled for years to reconcile what have seemed to be two possibly contrasting roles: it has a long-established reputation for carefully honed creative excellence, while also needing to live up to expectations as a worldwide advertising network. It's a hard task to pull off, and Lowe has frequently failed to keep hold of clients who required one or other but not both of those services. The bulk of Unilever's global detergent portfolio, for example, moved elsewhere for exactly that reason. An association with the now defunct Lintas name didn't help; nor did the drawn-out financial problems which plagued Interpublic for several years in the 2000s.
In 2006 a decision was made for Lowe to ditch many of its international outposts in order to devote time and energy to a smaller portfolio of more appreciative clients. However the resulting loss of even more large-ticket business led to another rethink. The agency's Catch-22 dilemma was proven when a subsequent renewal of Lowe's focus on international business caused several local clients, especially in the UK, to pull their business too.
As a result of these several changes, MullenLowe - as it is now - now sits somewhere between the major global networks (such as big sister McCann) and multi-hub creative networks (like BBH or Wieden & Kennedy). It currently comprises creative hubs in London, Paris and Madrid; Brazil, Sweden, India, China and Thailand. These in turn feed and are fed by a collection of around 50 regional outposts, some of which are little more than service offices.
The network doesn't generally feature among the world's most awarded these days, but in 2016 Spain's Lola MullenLowe Madrid made a surprise appearance among the world's four most awarded creative agencies, according to The Big Won ranking, as a result of a moving campaign for Spanish football magazine Libero. Its Football Memories FM campaign was among the Top 20 campaigns worldwide.
Advertising Age estimated global income of $600m in 2018, including $212m in the US from MullenLowe USA in Boston. The group's biggest international client remains Unilever, a long-time client even before Lowe absorbed Lintas, which had previously been the packaged goods group's inhouse marketing arm. Although it no longer handles the detergent business in developed markets, it does manage several other accounts on a global basis including deodorants and ice cream.
Europe is traditionally Lowe's strongest region, with important outposts in London, Paris and Madrid. London in particular has always been the spiritual home of the Lowe network, but the local agency suffered a series of management problems and account losses from 2002 onwards (see separate profile). Interpublic agreed in June 2010 to acquire independent London rival DLKW, at one time a subsidiary of Lowe, and merged the two agencies under DLKW's management team to form what was then DLKW Lowe, subsequently rebranded to MullenLowe London. In France, Lowe Lintas Paris and independently branded Alice merged in 2001 to form Lowe Alice. The Alice name was subsequently dropped, and in 2006 Lowe's French office merged with group-owned corporate communications specialist Strateus to form what Lowe Strateus - now MullenLowe Paris.
In the early 2000s, Spanish office Lowe RZR absorbed newly acquired De Fedrico, Valmorisco y Ochoa, later becoming Lowe Madrid. That office rebranded in 2007 under the name Lola (for Lowe Latina) and also now coordinates operations in Latin America. The Lola brand has been retained following the rebranding of the wider group as MullenLowe. Lowe Pirella in Italy was created from the acquisition of local shop Pirella & Gottsche in 1985.
In Germany, the original Lowe agency was closed down in 2007, and instead the network was represented for several years by a unit controlled and run by independent local group Scholz & Friends, which also represented Lowe in other central and eastern European markets. That partnership came to an end in 2011 following Scholz's acquisition by WPP. Lowe re-established a presence in Germany in 2014 with the acquisition of indie Grimm Gallun Holtappels, now GGH Lowe.
For several years in the 2000s, there was speculation that Lowe might be merged with stablemate Draftfcb. This was heightened in 2009 when the local offices of both agencies in the Netherlands and Switzerland were combined. The resulting entities were renamed as Draftfcb/Lowe in Switzerland and as Lowe/Draftfcb in the Netherlands. There was a change of plan in 2011, when the Lowe brand was split out again. Instead, the network recruited local independent Alfred, set up in 2007 by two ex-Lowe executives, to manage Lowe's Unilever business under license, along similar lines to the former Lowe Deutschland. That unit now trades as MullenLowe Alfred. Alfred remains a separate company. In Russia, the network is represented by Lowe Adventa, a unit of ADV Group.
Until 2009, the group maintained a single US office in New York, known for some time as Lowe/SMS. More even than its counterpart in London, the New York office wrestled for years with management and account problems, and Interpublic's attempts to bolster the agency by merging it with other subsidiaries - including Bozell in 2003 - tended only to make matters worse. Lowe New York suffered another disappointing year in 2007, losing a large proportion of its portfolio of Johnson & Johnson brands, as well as the bulk of its work for General Motors. Almost a third of the New York office's staff were laid off in the wake of those losses. However performance seemed to stabilise slightly during 2008, and the agency garnered some encouraging reports in the trade press as the year's "comeback kid".
Progress remained steady, and in October 2009 Interpublic announced the merger of Lowe's North American presence with stronger stablemate Deutsch. The latter absorbed Lowe New York's employees and clients, and also assumed management responsibility for Canadian office Lowe Roche. The group acquired Montreal agency Amuse in 2011. In 2013, however, Lowe became one of the three partners in a new IPG construct, Rogue, which was awarded the global Cadillac account, working with US agencies Campbell Ewald and Hill Holliday. This created a potential conflict with existing Deutsch client Volkswagen, prompting the replacement of Deutsch as Lowe's US office by Campbell Ewald, which rebranded for a while as Lowe Campbell Ewald. The subsequent loss of Cadillac created yet another dilemma in the US, and yet another restructure followed, with the merger of Lowe with Mullen. Campbell Ewald is still affiliated to the network, but regained standalone branding. In 2015, as a result of a slow decline in the performance of Lowe Roche Canada following the departure of its founder Geoffrey Roche, Interpublic announced the closure of that office and the network's complete exit from Canada.
The network's profile in Latin America has also changed several times in recent years. By the beginning of 2008, around 20 Lowe offices across Latin America had been reduced to just seven, supporting the main creative hub in Brazil, which had risen to the local #2 agency by billings in 2013, according to researcher IBOPE. A key supporting role is played by what is now Ponce Buenos Aires, a minority-owned affiliate in Argentina. This was previously VegaOlmosPonce, and its CEO Fernando Vega Olmos was also worldwide creative director for Lowe's Unilever business. However, Vega Olmos quit the agency in 2008 to join rival Unilever agency JWT. Ponce rebranded and is still aligned with the Lowe network, developing international ad campaigns for several Unilever brands, most notably for deodorants Axe and Rexona. Another star agency in Latin America is MullenLowe SSP3 in Colombia, the original home of current group creative chief Jose Luis Solokoff. Though Colombia is only a small market, SSP3 punches above its weight in terms of global creative awards. The Latin American presence has expanded since then, partly through affiliate arrangements with regional independents.
Another well-known regional office was Lowe Bull in South Africa, for many years a partnership with creative director Matthew Bull, who later became ECD of the global group. However he left the network in 2011, and Lowe acquired a majority shareholding in the unit, which now trades as MullenLowe South Africa.
The Asia Pacific region is divided into several sub-groups, many of which are heavily reliant on work for Unilever. Shanghai is the main hub for China, while the group is represented in Japan primarily by local affiliate Daiko advertising. Lowe is especially strong in India, where it was represented under its own name as well as by Lintas India. Lowe India was for many years only minority-owned by Interpublic. The group acquired full control in 2007. Lintas India, a relic of the old Lintas network, operates separately. As of 2017, there are three separate units operating in India: Lowe Lintas, Mullen Lintas and newly launched through-the-line division PointNine Lintas.
Elsewhere in the region, Korean affiliate Grape Communications is one of the top ten agencies in that busy market. Lowe Thailand is supported by a group of offices across the South Asia region. Lowe's presence in Australia & New Zealand was anchored from 1999 onwards by Lowe Hunt, a joint venture with legendary local adman Lionel Hunt (former founder of The Campaign Palace). However performance became a little uneven towards the end of the following decade. An affiliated agency, Cummins & Partners, dropped out of the Lowe network in 2007. Two years later, Lionel Hunt stepped down, and the agency merged with the local arm of below-the-line unit Rivet at the beginning of 2009 as Lowe Sydney. Several key clients left over the next couple of years, putting the agency at risk of closure. Instead, in 2011, IPG acquired a majority stake in independent agency 303 advertising and merged it into the local Lowe office, handing management control to 303's senior executives. The combined business adopted the new name 303Lowe, now 303MullenLowe.
What was once a collection of marketing services satellites has mostly been hived off into other units within Interpublic. ICC Lowe was Lowe's network of specialist healthcare agencies, but these now report as part of FCB Health. Despite the effective closure of the Rivet network in 2009, a new retail activation brand was launched in 2010 under the name Lowe Open - now MullenLowe Open , with offices in the UK and a number of Eastern European and Asian markets. In 2011, the network agreed a global alliance with digital agency Huge, also a subsidiary of Interpublic, to work together on key clients including Unilever. Though headquartered in New York, Huge also has several other offices across the US as well as a presence in both the UK and Brazil.
To boost its global digital profile, Lowe acquired in early 2014 the independent network Profero, now MullenLowe Profero. Although it offers a full portfolio of digital marketing disciplines including website design and build and search marketing, Profero was originally best-known for planning, creating and buying online advertising campaigns. It had a strong presence in the UK and Asia, as well as an office in the US. However, Profero's existing affiliate relationships in continental Europe (including one with Serviceplan's Plan.net) were surrendered after the Lowe deal.
The network has also added on its own inhouse media planning and buying unit, with the extension of Mullen's original US subsidiary Mediahub. This now has its own global footprint as MullenLowe Mediahub, working alongside Interpublic's UM and Initiative networks and other agencies under the Mediabrands umbrella. It also has a strong PR offering, especially in the US. The group acquired UK and Singapore PR shop Salt in 2016, now MullenLowe Salt. Industry watcher The Holmes Report named MullenLowe as its Global Creative PR Agency of the Year for 2017.
Lowe's problems led to a series of management changes during the 2000s. However, after several years of instability, Michael Wall, formerly a founding partner of Fallon London, was recruited in June 2009 to become worldwide CEO. Tony Wright, formerly chairman as well as the key account director on Unilever business, moved to a new centralised role at Interpublic from 2015. However in May 2015, Wall's departure as CEO was announced following the merger of Lowe with US agency Mullen to form the new Mullen Lowe Group. Mullen's Alex Lekikh was appointed as global CEO. Former Havas executive Naomi Troni joined the network in 2014 as chief global growth officer. Aaron Reitkopf is chief executive Americas & global chairman. Profero co-founder Wayne Arnold remains CEO of what is now MullenLowe Profero, but will depart in Spring 2017. Other senior managers include Hugh Doherty (CFO & COO), James Fox (global chief strategy officer) and Helen Bell (COO, Unilever account).
Lowe's creative output is supervised by a council comprising the creative heads from local outposts. This was led for several years by Matthew Bull, who also held the title of global chief creative officer. However he announced his departure from Lowe in 2011. Instead, Jose Miguel Sokoloff, chairman and chief creative officer at Lowe SSP3 in Colombia, was appointed as president of the creative council.
Other regional and divisional heads include Jeremy Hine (president, Mullen Lowe UK), Paul Soon & Kames Hollow (co-CEOs, Mullen Lowe Asia Pacific), Francisco Samper (president, MullenLowe Latin America), John Moore (global president Mediahub) and Anthony Hopper (CEO, MullenLowe Open).
Just as Saatchi & Saatchi still carries the names of the brothers who created it almost 20 years after their departure, so too Frank Lowe's lasting contribution to the advertising industry is still celebrated in the name of the MullenLowe network despite his own bitter divorce from parent company Interpublic.
London agency Lowe Howard-Spink was formed in 1981 by a group of senior managers from Collett Dickenson Pearce, then widely regarded as the UK's best advertising agency. Frank Lowe had started his career at JWT, and also spent time at Pritchard Wood during the 1960s, narrowly missing the opportunity to move to breakaway BMP. He eventually joined CDP in 1969, initially as the account director for Birds Eye frozen foods. A charismatic and sometimes eccentric character, he quickly proved adept at managing and charming clients, and was ruthless in competitive pitches against rival agencies. Unusually for an account executive at that time, he cultivated a close relationship with CDP's creative department, earning their staunch loyalty for his ability to persuade clients of the merits of even the most unconventional ideas. At the same time, Lowe's reputation for excess and flamboyance made him one of the industry's best-known figures. As a result of this, he was a popular choice to become managing director of CDP in the early 1970s, supervising many of its most spectacular successes.
His decision to jump ship in 1981 with business partner Geoff Howard-Spink was a blow from which CDP never really recovered. Lowe and Howard-Spink took with them several key clients, including Fiat, Birds Eye and Whitbread. The start-up company quickly began to establish a presence outside the UK, bolting on a European network in 1983 through an alliance with Interpublic. During the 1970s, that US group had attempted to establish an international presence for its Campbell Ewald and Marschalk subsidiaries by acquiring a string of small agencies in Europe. These had never really gelled as a cohesive unit, so Interpublic took the opportunity now to hand them over to Lowe Howard-Spink in exchange for a 35% shareholding in the enlarged company. The cherry on top was the offer of a small shareholding for Lowe in Marschalk's New York office, giving the new British agency a presence in the US.
Lowe Howard-Spink went public a year later in 1984, beefing up its London-based management team with Tim Bell, the executive widely credited as the marketing brain within the Saatchi & Saatchi empire, but who had become increasingly marginalised by the brothers. The newly renamed Lowe Howard-Spink & Bell also strengthened its UK presence in 1986 by acquiring smaller rival Allen Brady & Marsh. Although his official title at Lowe was group chief executive, Tim Bell's particular interest was in public relations. While at Saatchi's he had steered Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party through two consecutive election wins, and he was called in by Thatcher once again to consult on her third election campaign in 1987, much to the annoyance of the Saatchi brothers, who had retained responsibility for advertising. (Thatcher's winning campaign slogan "Britain is great again. Don't let Labour wreck it" was reportedly coined by Bell and Frank Lowe, not Saatchi & Saatchi.) Frank Lowe's interests, however, were in advertising not PR and in 1989 they parted ways more or less amicably, with Bell buying out the group's Lowe Bell PR subsidiary, which was to form the core of Chime Communications.
The economic recession which hit Britain in 1990 put considerable pressure on Lowe, and it sought refuge in the arms of Interpublic, which acquired the shares it didn't already own in the group at the end of the year. One of the first requirements was to add a stronger US presence. The 1983 tie-up between Frank Lowe and New York's Marschalk agency had proved notably unsuccessful. Like stablemate McCann, Marschalk was a thoroughly traditional agency with big clients including Coca-Cola and RJR Nabisco. It had little time for Frank Lowe's offbeat and unconventional ideas. Lowe himself did little to ease the relationship, emphasizing his Englishness by carrying a stuffed teddy bear around with him (in homage to the Brideshead Revisited TV drama) and readily expressing his horror of hard-sell American advertising. Unable to get his way at Marschalk, Lowe eventually resorted to launching a start-up agency of his own in New York in 1987, built around two executives poached from rival agency Scali McCable Sloves. One of these, creative partner David Metcalf, was like Lowe a blunt Northerner, and had cut his teeth as a copywriter at CDP before moving to New York.
The newly formed Lowe Tucker Metcalf earned plaudits for its creative work, mainly for smaller clients, but this reputation was quickly overshadowed by notoriety as a result of an excessive redecoration program. In one particularly extravagant gesture reported by Adweek, Frank Lowe commissioned British furniture designer Lord Linley to build him a huge desk – at a cost reputed to be more than $200,000 – only to find that it wouldn't fit into the agency's service elevator and so could not be transported to his office. Another former employee recalled that a set of carved doors had been commissioned for the company restrooms at a cost of more than $10,000 apiece.
Lowe Tucker Metcalf never really grew beyond a creative boutique, and it was eventually shut down in 1990. Instead Frank Lowe turned his attention back to what was now Lowe Marschalk, transplanting David Metcalf to become creative director. Yet there was still little sign of a much-needed creative renaissance. It was only three years later, after Metcalf had been replaced by up-and-coming star Lee Garfinkel, that Lowe's New York office finally began to deliver results. In 1993, the agency pulled off a major coup by winning the Diet Coke and Smirnoff accounts, and strengthened its case further by merging with another New York powerhouse. Scali McCabe Sloves was a well-respected New York creative agency, best-known for a much-celebrated campaign for Perdue chickens and also the home of the Mercedes account. It had become part of Ogilvy & Mather during the 1970s and was also - for a while - the parent of both Fallon and The Martin Agency. After O&M was acquired by WPP in 1989, SMS was put up for sale. It was eventually bought by Interpublic in 1993, and was merged with Lowe Marschalk to become Lowe/SMS, with Sloves and Garfinkel installed as joint chairmen. A year later, Garfinkel scored a home run with a classic commercial for Diet Coke which firmly established the agency's creative credentials. That ad, in which a group of female office workers take a Diet Coke break to ogle a bare-chested construction worker, was among the most memorable ads of the decade. Ads for Mercedes, including 1997's Falling In Love Again, which celebrated the brand's heritage, also garnered considerable acclaim.
Further mergers followed. Goldsmith/Jeffrey, a New York creative boutique run by Gary Goldsmith and Bob Jeffrey, was acquired in 1996, as well as a shareholding in San Francisco agency Goldberg Moser O'Neill. Displaying typical extravagance, Lowe opened a second San Francisco office a year later when it won the Oral-B account. (Neither agency survived. GMO was merged into Hill Holliday in 2000; Lowe San Francisco closed a year later). In Europe, the network expanded its presence by buying into Central European group GGK, which added offices in Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries. (Most still exist to this day under the Lowe GGK name).
Meanwhile the atmosphere at Lowe's New York office was beginning to sour, not least because of friction between Frank Lowe and Marvin Sloves. At the end of 1998, Sloves retired from the agency. That appeared to resolve the internal political wrangles, but only until the timebomb triggered by Sloves' departure exploded a few months later. In a completely unexpected development, Mercedes too said goodbye to the agency, shifting its $125m account to rival Omnicom agency Merkley Newman Harty because of what it called management problems following Sloves' retirement. Rather than ride out the storm, IPG promptly issued a writ against Sloves, accusing him of "tortuous interference" and alleging that he had used his influence to persuade Mercedes to move. An arbitration court eventually dismissed that claim.
Yet despite its continuing reputation for strong creative work, Lowe continued to trail some way behind Interpublic's lead network McCann-Erickson in size. Another Interpublic network, Ammirati Puris Lintas, was also struggling with account losses. As a result, the parent group sought to bolster both businesses by merging them at the end of 1999. Despite their more or less equivalent size, there was little doubt who was in charge. The Ammirati and Puris names were dropped, APL chairman Martin Puris left the group, and Frank Lowe was appointed as chairman of what was now the world's fourth largest agency network. As it turned out, however, this new merger would end up generating even more problems than it solved. Almost immediately, Lowe client Henkel moved its $50m pan-Euro account because of Lintas's long association with arch-rival Unilever. Only a few months later Unilever also loosened its ties, announcing that future new business would go to other agencies, not Lowe Lintas. A new blow came with the global consolidation of Diageo's spirits accounts, in which Lowe lost its place on the roster, surrendering Smirnoff, Bailey's and Malibu to JWT. Net account losses in 1999 and 2000 were estimated at more than half a billion dollars.
Despite those initial integration problems Lowe Lintas's portfolio had stabilized by the end of 2000, with most remaining clients agreeing that the merger had ultimately been a success. However it was primarily the London agency that was responsible for establishing the new brand personality. It enjoyed a strong year in 2000, named Agency of the Year by Campaign, largely as a result of a powerful campaign for new mobile phone client Orange. Frank Lowe was himself knighted in 2001 for his services to British advertising. Yet despite the strong performance in the UK and also elsewhere around the globe, problems remained in New York. Even before the merger with Lowe, there had been lingering tensions within Ammirati Puris Lintas, itself the product of a merger, between the old Ammirati team and the Lintas faction. Lowe New York was also an unhappy agency, similarly divided between the supporters of joint heads Gary Goldsmith and Lee Garfinkel. As former employee David Kiley later wrote, the resulting business "wasn't so much an ad firm as it was a grocery store shelf of agency names collected like so many cans of mushy peas. Creating a creative culture of any kind out of this mess was impossible." The inherent turbulence was exaggerated still further by Frank Lowe himself. According to one account, he poured petrol rather than water on the flames at the agency's Christmas 2000 party, with a grandstanding 35-minute speech which included several only barely light-hearted side-swipes at Lintas, at Lee Garfinkel and even soon-to-retire Interpublic boss Phil Geier. Garfinkel himself left the agency a month later to join D'Arcy.
Lowe's relationship with senior executives at parent Interpublic deteriorated rapidly over the next few months. In January 2001, John Dooner, the former CEO of McCann Erickson, replaced Phil Geier as IPG's CEO and also as Frank Lowe's immediate boss. The two men had very different personalities. Lowe took full advantage of the lavish international lifestyle which his position afforded him, spending heavily not just on refurbishment of his agency's premises, but on an extravagant travel and entertainment expense account, which included frequent private plane charters. Dooner was more conservative, a hard-charging businessman who had engineered at McCann an ambitious and far-reaching integrated services offering. Dooner's approach was careful, pragmatic and systematic. Lowe's was brilliant, but idiosyncratic and wilful.
Dooner set about reining in what he considered to be Lowe's excesses while also attempting to build a structure at the agency which would mirror McCann WorldGroup. Five months after he was established as group CEO, Dooner reassigned Frank Lowe to a new and less hands-on position as chairman of Lowe, and promoted his deputy Jerry Judge to network CEO. At the same time, he consigned the Lintas name to the dustbin, giving the network the new name of Lowe & Partners, and also announced the creation of The Partnership, a new entity in which Lowe would be linked with a clutch of other IPG subsidiaries including direct marketing network Draft and New York creative shop Deutsch. Dooner underlined his thinking in an interview with Adweek, which appeared to contain an only thinly disguised criticism of old school veterans like Frank Lowe. "We're in the world of 'it is'. We have to get away from the excuses of yesterday, 'what was'. In the past, this industry had occasions when it was held hostage by crazy creative personalities. What's needed today is to put together strong business propositions for our clients."
Yet the vision which had succeeded at McCann couldn't easily be replicated at The Partnership, not least because of a mix of personalities - not least Deutsch's Donny Deutsch - who were just as brilliant and just as wilful as Frank Lowe. Meanwhile the tensions between Frank Lowe and Interpublic's senior managers worsened as a result of growing problems at another subsidiary, Octagon. Towards the end of the 1990s, Lowe had managed to persuade Phil Geier to bankroll his own interest in sport by acquiring a string of sponsorship and event management businesses and even motor-racing tracks. At one stage he even tried to buy his favourite football team, Manchester United. Several of these deals turned sour, forcing the group to write off almost $290m in impairment charges in 2003. By that point, though, Lowe himself had gone. Increasingly marginalised by Dooner, he resigned from Interpublic's board at the end of 2002, and finally cut his ties to the group altogether in September 2003. Earlier that year, in yet another misguided attempt to bolster Lowe New York's declining stature, it had absorbed another sacrificial victim, Bozell.
The New York office continued to lose business during 2002, shedding Verizon Communications, Heineken and Diet Coke. As a result, the Partnership concept was scaled back drastically less than two years after its launch in favour of a closer relationship between Lowe and direct marketing network Draft Worldwide. Most of Lowe's own below-the-line units, then known as Lowe Live, were absorbed by Draft and the new alliance formalised under the name Lowe Draft. (Reportedly, Interpublic had also considered a full merger of the two networks. However even that relationship was unpicked in 2006 when Draft merged instead with FCB. This created something of a dilemma for nine former Lowe Live units, which carried the Draft name but were not included in the DraftFCB merger. These eventually adopted a new name of Rivet in 2007.)
Yet despite the advantages that the Lowe Draft alliance should have generated, problems continued to arise, and if anything gathered pace. The group still struggled to build its client roster, winning important new clients but also losing existing business. The New York office came in for particular criticism. Advertising Age, in its review of performance for 2003, gave Lowe New York the lowest rating of any major agency, commenting "Lowe still has a pulse, but not a strong one". At the start of 2004, the network was rocked when another three major accounts - HSBC, Verizon Wireless and Braun - all called reviews of their business within a few days of one another, eventually moving their accounts to other networks.
It was all change again in August 2004. Jerry Judge was transferred to the more or less nominal role of chairman of The Partnership, and Interpublic tried another strategy altogether, importing Tony Wright, previously the worldwide chief strategy officer at Ogilvy & Mather as Lowe's new CEO. The appointment of Wright appeared to sever, finally, the connection to Frank Lowe, especially when he began to sideline other key Frank Lowe loyalists. Wright also introduced a more methodical planning-based discipline to the agency. But although he had a strong relationship with clients, Wright had never held the top job at an agency, let alone an international network, and his relationship with some of the managers he inherited at Lowe appears to have been strained for several months. Meanwhile the account defections continued. In January 2005, Nestle shifted its confectionery brands out of Lowe into JWT, and a few weeks later, Unilever announced it would review its global detergents business, then split between Lowe and JWT. The majority of that account eventually transferred to BBH, although Lowe retained a role in emnerging markets. Meanwhile, Lowe London was suffering a steady leak of new business from another key account, GM subsidiary Vauxhall Motors, to smaller agency Delaney Lund Knox Warren, itself a former Interpublic subsidiary which had bought back its independence earlier in the year.
In February 2005, Wright unveiled a full restructuring of the business, scaling back the global network and appointing nine of what were then 83 offices to become what he described as "lighthouses", coordinating creative activity in their region, while another newly created unit, Lowe Activation, was set up to coordinate marketing resources from elsewhere within Interpublic. In 2005, Lowe London attempted to tighten its weakening grip on General Motors by negotiating to acquire local independent DFGW, a roster agency for Chevrolet in the UK. Yet these plans too were derailed by another devastating blow. Sir Frank Lowe emerged from two years of contractually-enforced retirement in December 2005 to announce the launch of a new start-up agency, subsequently named The Red Brick Road. His first move was to poach Paul Weinberger, chairman of Lowe London and long-serving account director on the flagship Tesco account. A few days later, Tesco confirmed that it would follow Weinberger to the new shop.
A number of other Lowe executives were also linked with The Red Brick Road, causing Interpublic to issue legal proceedings against Frank Lowe in January 2006 for "violation of contractual and fiduciary duties arising from his tenure as the head of its Lowe Worldwide agency network". Sir Frank retaliated with an angry denial and a counter-threat to sue for defamation. (The case was eventually settled a year later, with both sides agreeing to drop their claims). In the mean time, Interpublic was able to persuade Lowe London's creative chief Ed Morris to remain on board by promising what was rumoured to be a substantial pay hike. Yet stability was disrupted once again in March when Interpublic suspended Lowe London's CEO Garry Lace. Formerly head of Grey London, which he left in 2004 under similar circumstances, Lace was accused by the group of meeting with Frank Lowe on several occasions to discuss the Tesco account. Lace subsequently left the group.
Lowe's problems led to a further management shake-up in 2006. Stephen Gatfield, then Interpublic's EVP of network operations, took over as group CEO while his predecessor Tony Wright was shifted to the position of chairman. However Gatfield too moved on from his role in April 2009, and his successor wasn't appointed until June 2009 when Michael Wall, a founding partner of Fallon London, was named as Lowe Worldwide's new CEO. Kevin Allen transferred from McCann in 2006 in the new position of vice chairman, with responsibility for marketing and business development. In late 2008, Fernando Vega Olmos, CEO of Lowe Latina & worldwide creative director on the Unilever account, quit the group to join JWT, Lowe's rival on several Unilever accounts.
The London and New York offices also had their fair share of management turmoil. In London, local CEO Amanda Walsh, appointed in October 2006, left after just over a year in February 2008, apparently following a difficult relationship with network chairman Wright. She was not replaced. Ed Morris became executive creative director and managing partner. However the agency continued to steadily lose clients during 2008, and Morris announced plans to leave the business in early 2009. In New York, Mark Wnek replaced Gary Goldsmith as chairman & chief creative officer in 2005. However Nancy Hill, named as Lowe NY CEO in June 2006, also left just over a year later and was also not directly replaced.
Last full revision 5th February 2019
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