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McCann Erickson | McCann Worldgroup (US)

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McCann Erickson - or just plain McCann as it is now generally known - still claims to be the biggest worldwide agency network by global footprint. The main agency specialises in traditional advertising, but it also offers a broad range of other marketing services under the banner of the McCann Worldgroup, which coordinates input from several other Interpublic-owned agencies including Momentum, MRM, Futurebrand and Weber Shandwick. A dynamic force during the 1990s, McCann stumbled badly at the beginning of the following decade, distracted by accounting irregularities and management problems. The loss of the prestigious Coke Classic account in several important markets was a severe blow. McCann recovered some of its composure and steadily re-strengthened its client portfolio during the 2000s, before stumbling again from 2010 onwards. Despite its worldwide presence, it has come under intense pressure from more nimble competitors in several key markets, and has had to fight hard to keep hold of key clients like Verizon, Microsoft and General Motors. A change of CEO at the end of 2012 restored McCann's poise and performance since then has been generally solid. McCann was Adweek's Global Agency of the Year in 2019, for the first time in two decades.

Clients

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Competitors

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Brands & Activities

McCann Erickson is among the leading agency networks by geographic spread as well as historical importance and its degree of professionalism. However it generally tends to rank in the middle or lower tiers in terms of creativity. Steps have been taken to improve this, with all creative work monitored and reviewed internally by a global committee. Following a run of client defections between 2002 and 2005, a beefed-up management team launched an aggressive new business campaign, which resulted in the capture of more work from existing clients and some significant new accounts towards the end of the decade. However, the retirement in 2010 of CEO John Dooner, who had been the driving force behind the creation of Worldgroup in the 1990s, was followed by another round of account reviews and defections.

The biggest arm of the Worldgroup remains advertising network McCann, with around 125 offices in 110 countries as of summer 2016, stretching from Abu Dhabi to Zagreb. That footprint makes it arguably the world's most widely spread agency. McCann's local offices generally rank among the leaders in their market. The agency offers a consistently broad offering in most markets through its family of linked marketing services networks. Long established as the lead agency within Interpublic, McCann now operates as several separate units under the umbrella of parent entity McCann Worldgroup. Known as McCann-Erickson Worldgroup until 2004, the business was given a new coat of paint that year with a refreshed corporate identity. Among the changes was the official removal of the hyphen which had nestled in the middle of the McCann-Erickson name since the agency's creation. However the group retained the philosophy originally conceived by its founder more than 80 years ago: "Truth Well Told". More recently, the Erickson tag has generally been dropped from the name.

The recent revamps followed a series of problems during the early 2000s, both within McCann itself and at parent Interpublic. The group's relentless growth during the previous two decades came to a crashing halt in 2002, when the McCann network began to lose the favour of several core clients, including Coca-Cola, which shifted out the business for its flagship Coke Classic brand in several markets around the world. At the same time it transpired that offices of McCann's European network had each accounted in full the revenues from work which had been shared between different units. This caused considerable embarrassment to the hitherto unimpeachable McCann, and shook clients' confidence in the business. McCann initiated a wide-ranging overhaul of its senior management team in order to fix these internal problems. John Dooner, who had masterminded the creation of the Worldgroup concept before becoming group CEO of Interpublic, stepped back into the hot-seat to run the McCann network.

Performance gradually improved, reflected in a number of key account wins including Intel in 2005, the consolidated Verizon business in 2006, and a much enlarged slice of GM's business in 2007. However, GM's bankruptcy and Dooner's retirement resulted in another wave of client problems at the end of the decade. Under new CEO Nick Brien, parts of GM US and Verizon were lost, as well as GM's Opel business in Europe, Nestle's flagship Nescafe account and ExxonMobil - which it had managed for almost 100 years - in 2011; followed by Lufthansa in 2012. There were also recurring rumours of discontent at another key client L'Oreal, following a poorly handled attempt to bundle several L'Oreal-owned accounts into a single dedicated "Beauty Village" unit. A crucial review of GM's global Chevrolet account, ended in a partial victory in 2012, when the account was awarded to Commonwealth, a newly created joint venture between McCann and Omnicom's Goodby Silverstein agency.

This steady erosion, accompanied by a lack of significant account wins eventually became too serious for Interpublic to ignore. Brien was removed towards the end of 2012, replaced by Harris Diamond, previously head of the Worldgroup's Weber Shandwick PR business. Since then there has been a noticeable improvement in McCann's fortunes. Perhaps the most significant gain was GM's decision to consolidate the whole Chevrolet account with McCann, though it is still handled by the dedicated Commonwealth network, now wholly owned by Interpublic, and rebranded as Commonwealth/McCann with ten dedicated global hubs and support elsewhere via the main McCann network. At the end of 2012, another dedicated unit was launched under the name McCann XBC (for "Extra Bold Condensed") to provide dedicated services for key client MasterCard. There are also distinct teams for L'Oreal and for Microsoft, the latter operating under the name m:united.

The seal was placed on McCann's creative resurrection in June 2013 when the Dumb Ways To Die viral produced the previous year by its Australian division for Melbourne's Metro train service won an unprecedented five Grand Prix, in addition to 23 other awards, at the Cannes Lions festival. Another important development was the recruitment in 2014 of the widely admired Crispin Porter & Bogusky executive Rob Reilly to become global creative chairman. Performance since then has been steady as she goes. The biggest gain was the bulk of the global consolidated Microsoft account, also in 2014. Another dedicated agency, m:united, was formed to manage the business.

The US remains McCann's most important market. There are now five main branded offices, in New York, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and San Francisco. The latter office was merged in 2011 with creative boutique Agency TwoFifteen, itself previously part of McCann SF, and spun out for a couple of years under the name TAG, specialising in technology accounts. It was absorbed back into the main network in 2012 as TwoFifteenMcCann. An seventh outpost opened in Minneapolis in 2016 with the absorption and rebranding of what was previously Campbell Mithun as McCann Minneapolis. Mithun's Compass Point Media agency continues to operate separately as part of the group. Fitzgerald & Co in Atlanta retained separate branding but operated as an office of McCann for more than 20 years following its acquisition by Interpublic in 1998. Founder and chairman Dave Fitzgerald bought back the business in 2020 for an undisclosed sum. A Washington office was closed in 2002 following the loss of the US Airways account. McCann Erickson Seattle was rebranded in 2000 as an independent unit under new name Sedgwick Road, before being merged into TM advertising in 2007. It returned to the McCann network in 2010 as McCann Seattle but later closed. McCann Los Angeles also shuttered in 2012, with its remaining accounts transferred to Interpublic stablemate and Worldgroup satellite Dailey. Advertising Age estimated US revenues for McCann of $611m in 2018 (representing around 43% of the network's global revenues). North of the border, McCann Canada has four offices in Totonto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary.

The agency also remains a powerhouse in most global markets. Advertising Age estimated total worldwide advertising revenues of $1.4bn in 2018. McCann Europe is anchored by offices in the key markets of the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, but there has been some consolidation in smaller countries in the region. At the beginning of 2016, for example, McCann's dedicated office in the Netherlands was shuttered and the network is now represented there by the local office of sister network FCB.

McCann is especially strong in Latin America with offices through Central and South America. McCann's profile in Latin America got a significant boost in 2010 from a deal to merge McCann Brazil with renowned local creative agency W/Brasil, the vehicle for celebrated local adman Washington Olivetto, who was named as McCann's chief creative officer for the region. The combined unit now trades as W/McCann. The group is also one of the biggest advertising networks across Africa and in the Middle East, where it is represented by MCN Holdings group, in which it has a 51% stake. MCN also represents several other Interpublic agencies in the region, including MullenLowe, Weber Shandwick and media agencies UM and Initiative. There is a similar relationship with ADV in Russia and the CIS, and in parts of Central & Eastern Europe with Serbian partner I&F Grupa. This company also took control of McCann Nordics in 2016.

McCann has a less imposing profile in the Asia Pacific region, despite an extensive footprint. In the important market of China it is represented through a joint venture with local newspaper publishing group Guangming Daily. In 2011, the group merged its weakening Australian office with newly acquired Australian indie Smart Inc, installing the smaller shop's senior management team at the head of the combined entity, which retained the McCann Australia name. That agency became the focus of global attention two years later with its spectacularly popular Dumb Ways To Die viral.

Beyond advertising, the Worldgroup offers a substantial range of more diversified marketing services through affiliated group agencies. These linked companies include Weber Shandwick and PMK-BNC (public relations), UM (media), MRM (direct marketing and interactive), Momentum (sales promotion), Futurebrand (branding), McCann Health (healthcare), Casanova Pendrill (multicultural). Worldgroup EXP was established in 2009 as a production services division. That unit was absorbed in 2012 into a newly created global network under the name Craft Worldwide, coordinating print, broadcast and digital production around the world, and also adapting centrally produced work for local markets. McCann Enterprise is a micro-network specialising in B2B marketing, now mainly in the UK.

The McCann Aligned Agency Group is a stable of of independently branded general advertising agencies within Interpublic who get access to McCann's general marketing resources and international network. They include Gotham Inc, The Martin Agency and AFG. NAS (formerly Nationwide advertising Service) is a specialist recruitment communications agency with more than 30 offices across North America. It was acquired by McCann in 2000. Another standalone shop, Amster Yard, was rebranded as World Creative Group in 2003.

Background

McCann Erickson established many of the ground rules for worldwide advertising networks. It was the first agency to embark on a deliberate policy of international development, the first to acquire a second-string agency brand to resolve client conflicts, and also the first to diversify into a wider range of marketing disciplines.

The seeds of the group were sown in 1902 by Alfred William ("Eric") Erickson, the son of an immigrant Swedish engineer. Schooled in Brooklyn, Erickson eventually ended up in the advertising department of New York's McCutcheon department store. A restless would-be entrepreneur, he left the store in 1902 to set up on his own. AW Erickson advertising was a modest success, but Erickson was keen to dabble in other areas as well and acquired or invested in a string of other companies over the next few years. The most lucrative of these proved to be the floor covering material Congoleum. Under the name Congo, it had originally been developed as a roofing material by one of Erickson's advertising clients, The Barrett Company. To improve sales, a Barrett employee suggested painting the material and using it as a floor covering instead, as a cheaper alternative to linoleum. Barrett's board wasn't keen, but Erickson thought it was a splendid idea, and acquired a controlling interest in the business. Congo was relaunched as Congoleum and proved a big success. Later, Erickson bought out Barrett's remaining interest in the product and in 1924 merged his Congoleum Inc with another business which made cork and linoleum coverings to form Congoleum-Nairn, which became one of the country's biggest flooring manufacturers. Other lucrative investments included Bon Ami cleaning products, Technicolor film stock, and the Boorum & Pease Stationery Co. By the late 1920s, Erickson was said to have accumulated a personal fortune of over $48m (worth around $600m in today's money). Needless to say, all of these companies were also persuaded to employ the AW Erickson agency to manage their advertising.

Despite Erickson's success, it was partner-to-be Harrison King McCann who really built the framework for the business that exists today. Raised in Maine in a moderately prosperous family of Irish and Scottish extraction, McCann was educated at Bowdoin College and had already spent several years in advertising, as bookkeeper for a small New York agency and then as advertising manager for the New York Telephone Company, before he joined the advertising department of Standard Oil, the massive holding company which then controlled virtually all of America's oilfields. In 1911, Standard was broken up by US anti-trust regulators to form 34 separate regional businesses, and McCann submitted an offer to spin off the group's central marketing department as an independent company. As a result, the HK McCann advertising Company launched in 1912, adopting the simple motto "Truth Well Told". The company was able to sign up six of Standard's fragments as its founding clients, along with the oil by-product Vaseline. Others soon followed, including Mack Trucks, Wells Fargo and Del Monte. By 1924, the McCann Company operated eight offices in the US and Canada to service more than 80 clients. By the end of the 1920s, there were also offices in England, France and Germany, opened to serve the growing international interests of another important client, General Motors.

McCann was by most accounts a shrewd businessman with a keen eye for financial details. But he was also a decidedly hands-off manager who left the day-to-day business to an increasingly large team of vice-presidents, many of whom shared the old school tie of Bowdoin College. According to a Time magazine report from 1930, he believes in an 'open door' office and encourages his executives to stand on their own feet, think with their own brains." Other accounts suggest that this was merely a polite way of saying that he rarely interfered in the business as long as it was making money.

According to another executive, Draper Daniels, who worked under him for several years during the 1940s, McCann "said very little and sat in few meetings". One idiosyncrasy was that he had a "reverse superstition" about the number 13, which he regarded as lucky. His company's name (The HK McCann Co), address (285 Madison Ave) and Truth Well Told motto all contained 13 characters.

McCann was obliged to surrender that particular quirk in 1930, when the McCann and Erickson agencies merged. Erickson initially took the title of chairman, but died four years later, leaving McCann as sole owner of the business. To service another new client, Coca-Cola, the agency moved south into Latin America during the 1930s, then further afield in the 1940s with partners in China, Philippines, India and South Africa. By 1950, McCann-Erickson had billings of $60m, of which $10m came from outside North America. By now, however, McCann had relinquished day-to-day control of the agency. In 1948 he had appointed a shy but brilliant 32-year-old executive named Marion Harper as president. McCann himself took the role of chairman, which he held until his death in a car accident in 1962. Until that point, he had continued to control virtually all of the company's voting shares. Upon his death, a 20% holding as well as effective control of the business, passed to Marion Harper.

Harper was one of the more remarkable products of the American corporate boom of the 1940s and 1950s. He had originally joined the agency as a mailroom clerk but rose quickly through the ranks as a result of an obsessive and single-minded focus on research. By modern corporate standards, it's hard to imagine how such a complete outsider could climb so quickly through the hierarchy of a large advertising agency. However, despite (or perhaps even because of) its size and age, McCann-Erickson seems to have been in a certain amount of disarray in the mid-1940s. According to Draper Daniels, who arrived from Y&R, then the country's #1 agency, "Y&R had been a disciplined army [but] McCann-Erickson was a loose alliance of warring chiefs." Harrison McCann's hands-off management style had created a huge middle-management tier of old-school ad executives "dedicated to pleasing the client at any cost" while bickering among themselves. McCann famously hated to fire people, preferring instead simply to move underperforming managers into a different job. New research techniques then beginning to be applied by other agencies were not high on anyone's agenda at McCann-Erickson. "Many top executives," said Daniels, "still looked on research as newfangled nonsense and most creative people found it hard to believe that there could be any good in anything that so frequently contradicted their preconceived ideas."

Marion Harper Jr had been born in 1916 in Oklahoma City, the son of the advertising sales director of the Daily Oklahoman newspaper. In the 1920s, Harper's parents split up, and Marion Harper Sr took a job in New York, first as a vice-president at General Foods and later with the Compton advertising agency. Marion Jr is said to have developed an interest in advertising after his father took him along to watch the recording of an NBC radio show. After college, he applied for various jobs in advertising in New York and was accepted at McCann-Erickson for a job in the mailroom, delivering post and running other errands throughout the agency.

One task assigned to Harper was to refill the carafes of water which were provided each day on the desks of all the agency's more senior executives. An anecdote recounted by Russ Johnston, a colleague and later Harper's biographer, is typical of the workings of his mind. Chet Posey, then one of the three top managers in the company, arrived early in his office one day to find the new mailroom clerk carefully and laboriously refilling Posey's water carafe with a small paper cup. Unaware that he was being watched, Harper diligently counted the number of cups needed to refill the flask, and then inscribed the quantity in a small notebook. Posey waited for him to finish, then cleared his throat to alert Harper to his presence, and asked him what exactly he was doing. "It's an experiment in consumption," Harper replied. "I've noticed that you gentlemen really don't use these water containers very much, and I found out why by tasting the water. It didn't taste very good, so last week I washed the insides of the bottles and started with fresh water. Since that time, consumption has increased by almost 25%. So taste must be important."

Needless to say, Posey was impressed with the young trainee's diligence, even more so a few days later when Harper explained another experiment he was dabbling with in his spare time. One of the few methods then available for monitoring the effectiveness of advertising was the Starch Continuing Readership Program, first introduced in the 1920s. This collected the results of interviews with magazine readers about which ads they recalled having seen, and whether their response was positive or negative. Harper told Posey that he had pulled out all of the Starch figures for the past three years and was painstakingly transcribing them in an attempt to identify precisely the factors which made some advertisements more effective than others in persuading consumers to purchase a particular product. The next step, Harper told Posey, was to get hold of all of the ads covered by the readership data and grade them according to a number of different factors such as size of illustration, length of headline, amount of copy and so on.

Within just three months of arriving in McCann-Erickson's mailroom, Harper secured a promotion to the agency's small and under-utilised research department. Here he was charged with launching the project which he had outlined to Chet Posey, under the name of the Continuing Study of Magazine Readership. The idea of readership research had already been developed by George Gallup at Y&R, but it was new to McCann-Erickson. The results of the study were soon being used to pre-test all new ads being developed by McCann to ensure their maximum effectiveness.

The process proved so successful that two years later, Harper was promoted to head of copy research at the tender age of 26. After another two years he became vice president in charge of research and merchandising, then director of research at 30. According to Draper Daniels, he was originally passed over for that role because he was considered too young. McCann changed his mind when he discovered that Harper had been offered an alternate job as George Gallup's assistant at Y&R. Eventually Harper was appointed as special assistant to Harrison McCann himself. "Anyone who could make research as exciting as Marion Harper does," said McCann, "would make a pretty exciting president." McCann was as good as his word, appointing Harper to the role of company president on his 32nd birthday in 1948.

Yet if Harper's work at McCann-Erickson was exciting, the man himself was quite the opposite. Unlike the brash ad industry types depicted in The Hucksters, a sensational best-selling novel of the time, Time described him in 1948 as "far from the outsider's idea of an advertising man. He was quiet and studious; he did not wear hand-painted ties, didn't smoke, showed not a single huckster characteristic." Tall and heavy-set (Time later described him as "hulking"), he had the look instead of a college professor. Draper Daniels said he "had the pasty pallor of a man who spends too much time indoors". He was also obsessively focused on his work. According to Russ Johnston, "it wasn't easy for [him] to engage in even the simplest social activity. Small talk was extremely difficult for him". Emerson Foote, who Harper recruited in 1951 to become EVP of McCann, commented "Marion was the hardest working person I have ever known. By my calculations he averaged over 100 hours a week, possibly much more". A profile in Time from the early 1960s revealed that he began each day with a four-mile ride on a home exercise bicycle, poring over a business book propped up on its handlebars. He possessed suits in just two colours, a brown suit for days he felt cheerful, otherwise grey. ("Sometimes I don't really find out how I feel until I notice what I have on," he told Fortune magazine in 1961). He always ate the same lunch: a hamburger and stewed tomatoes, accompanied by a cup of tea. An unnamed rival agency head told Time in 1963, "While I find Marion unattractively impersonal and ruthless, he does seem to be a marvellous organizer, and his mental capacity is immense."

Over the years he ran McCann-Erickson, that mental capacity was unstintingly applied to an unprecedented expansion of the agency to mirror the equally rapid growth of the television industry. A passionate believer in social science, Harper established the first ever psychological research department within an ad agency, and encouraged his staff to avoid "skipping around a maypole of creativity" but instead base their work in cold, hard research data. "Advertisers are not spending billions to decorate media," he told Fortune in 1961. "Their messages are not meant as ornaments." Instead, he ordered McCann's creative department to focus on determining what he called each client's 'purchase proposition', an alternative form of Bates' 'unique selling proposition'.

"What is the one thing that will cause prospective customers to buy our client's product instead of another's?" Harper asked. "We must find out through application of sophisticated research – not just how many subscribe or don't subscribe to our copy themes, but why they do or why they don't. What is the one idea that moves them to buy our product instead of our competitor's? What is the best purchase proposition to bring this about?" This, he said, was the difference that makes the difference. "It's not enough just to say our product is good, wholesome, fairly priced, and available. We have to look for the difference in our product that makes a difference."

McCann's research department was steadily expanded to provide the raw material for Harper's theories of research, and it was eventually established as a separate business in its own premises outside the main agency under the new name of Marplan. At the same time, the publicity and sales promotion departments of McCann were themselves established as separate units, with grand new names: Communications Counsellors Inc and Sales Communications Inc. Quite quickly, Harper set himself a new goal of overtaking J Walter Thompson to establish McCann-Erickson as the undisputed giant in global advertising. To that purpose, he launched a huge recruitment drive, drawing staff from a wide variety of other sources including scientific institutes, manufacturers and especially rival companies. He actively encouraged his managers to identify the best talent in the industry and to raid other advertising agencies to capture it.

That ruthlessness extended to clients as well. In 1959, Harper sent shock-waves through the industry with an unprecedented piece of hard-nosed business negotiation, when he resigned the multi-million-dollar Chrysler account in order to take on the business of arch-rival Buick, owned by General Motors. As Russ Johnston said, "never before had an agency dropped a multimillion-dollar client, especially an automotive account. A client's right to fire an agency was undisputed. The agency's right to fire a client was at that time unheard of." What made the situation even more controversial was the apparently surreptitious nature of the arrangement. General Motors had already called a public pitch of the Buick business, and numerous agencies presented their credentials for the account. McCann-Erickson was notable for its absence from that list, because of its relationship with Chrysler. As a result it came as quite a shock to the industry at large as well as to Chrysler when Harper informed the latter's senior management that he was resigning their account, and would be taking on Buick instead. McCann strenuously denied any accusations of underhandedness. The agency, it said, had been singled out specifically because of the work it was already doing in Germany for GM's Opel subsidiary. Yet to the industry at large it was clear why Harper was prepared to drop Chrysler: the prospect of adding other General Motors brands to McCann's portfolio. "We are not very proud of the advertising business this week," commented Advertising Age in its coverage of the story.

Yet with this and other such machinations, Harper was also responsible for transforming advertising, arguably for the first time, from a craft into a true business. By 1953, in its first five years under Harper, McCann's billings had doubled to $106m. Over the next three they doubled again to $200m. Yet tantalisingly, J Walter Thompson's revenues also grew, placing the #1 position just out of reach. Frustrated at McCann-Erickson's apparent inability to overtake its rival by billings alone, Harper tried a new tack in the early 1950s. Traditionally, a limiting factor in all advertising agencies' growth was their inability to handle the business of competing clients. In 1954, Harper found a way around this by acquiring a Cleveland agency, Marschalk & Pratt, which had successfully stolen part of McCann's core Standard Oil account several years earlier. Borrowing a strategy already pioneered by General Motors, which owned several different and competing car brands, Harper chose not to fold Marschalk into the McCann-Erickson network but left it to operate as an independent agency. As a result, Harper's empire was, at a stroke, now able to service competing accounts, a feat no other advertising company had managed until then. McCann-Erickson could handle Standard Oil of New Jersey, while McCann-Marschalk worked for Standard Oil of Ohio. "What we've done," Harper told Newsweek in 1964, "is take the management ladder and turn it into a horizontal position."

To accommodate the rapidly expanding business, McCann-Erickson was restructured in 1960, with a holding company created to manage its various subsidiaries, under the name The Interpublic Group of Companies. However the continuing expansion took its toll on the group. Despite creative successes such as Esso's "Put A Tiger In Your Tank" campaign, the unwieldy Interpublic conglomerate came close to collapse mid-decade, and Harper was unceremoniously ousted by the board in 1967.

The 1970s marked a return to form. In 1973, the US and international operations, previously two separate entities, were merged to form a single global agency under CEO Gene Kummel, and the group delivered a string of creative triumphs for Coca-Cola ("I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing"), L'Oreal ("Because You're Worth It"), Miller Lite ("Everything You Always Wanted In A Beer. And Less.") and Buick ("Wouldn't You Really Rather Have A Buick?"). McCann finally overtook J Walter Thompson as the world's biggest advertising agency in 1979.

After two dynamic decades, the group faced a fresh set of challenges in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Rival agencies had followed Interpublic's example, acquiring or merging with competitors to form new supergroups. As a result, Interpublic was overtaken in size by new challengers such as Saatchi & Saatchi and Omnicom. Then in 1991, core client Coca-Cola announced that it would split its account between McCann and the Hollywood management agency CAA, led by powerbroker Mike Ovitz. Although McCann continued to deliver the core theme of "Always Coca-Cola", virtually all of the Coke ads which launched in 1993 were produced by CAA's roster of directors and producers. An aggressive refocusing of the agency by newly appointed CEO John Dooner saw McCann regain its position as the #1 network by 1995, and the Coke account too was won back from CAA. A strong series of campaigns subsequently encouraged Coca-Cola to sign an unprecedented deal with Interpublic, naming the group as its global ad strategy partner.

At the same time, the agency began another acquisition drive, strengthening its portfolio of marketing services with add-on businesses which began to constitute a separate group of their own within the larger Interpublic structure. This was formally branded as the McCann-Erickson Worldgroup in 1997, and the next five years saw a relentless growth in the business, with the network averaging net new business of at least $1bn every year. Between 1998 and 2000, it was named Global Agency of the Year for three years in a row by Adweek magazine. In 2000, Dooner was rewarded for his efforts with a promotion to CEO of the overall Interpublic group, and was succeeded as chairman & CEO of McCann by Jim Heekin, a former head of the network's North America and EMEA regions.

But the McCann rollercoaster took another dip in 2002. That year Interpublic was forced to restate its revenues as a result of what were described as accounting irregularities over a period of several years at McCann Europe. The amount of the adjustment was first pegged at $68m, but was subsequently restated twice, finally ending up at over $180m. McCann's CFO Sal LaGreca and EMEA director of operations Brian Watson resigned at the same time. (The group eventually agreed to settle charges of accounting fraud by paying a fine of $12m to the SEC in 2008; LaGreca and Watson also agreed to pay a settlement fine without admitting or denying the charges). These financial problems appear to have shaken the confidence of some major clients. A further blow came when Coca-Cola once again began to backtrack on its worldwide affiliation to the network. During the second half of 2002, Coke quietly shifted several accounts out of McCann in different territories around the world. The real crunch came when McCann US lost lead status on the core Coca-Cola Classic account to Berlin Cameron, a small subsidiary of arch-rival WPP.

In a surprise reshuffle in 2003, Jim Heekin, was unceremoniously ousted. At the same time IPG CEO John Dooner resigned that role in order to be reinstated as head of McCann Worldgroup. It wasn't enough to prevent the loss of the Classic Coke account in several other important markets, including France and the UK. New CFO Art D'Angelo also moved on after less than a year in the job. In 2004, the agency announced plans for a new corporate makeover. Among the changes were the shortening of McCann-Erickson Worldgroup to just McCann Worldgroup, and the removal of the agency's central hyphen. Performance gradually improved over the remainder of that decade, and Dooner finally retired from day-to-day management of the agency in 2010.

He handed over the role of CEO in April 2010 to Nick Brien, previously head of Interpublic's Mediabrands umbrella. Dooner remained executive chairman of McCann Worldgroup until the end of the year, when that role too was passed to Brien. Over the next couple of years Brien made numerous changes to McCann's management team in an attempt to boost performance. However, none seemed to provide a lasting solution. There were several additional account losses, but the crucial factor in Brien's eventual departure appears to have been the resounding lack of new gains. Pressure on IPG to take more decisive action finally came to a head in November 2012, when Brien was dismissed. He was replaced by Harris Diamond, previously of CEO of Interpublic's Weber Shandwick PR network.

Last full revision 30th January 2019

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