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McGarryBowen

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McGarryBowen established a reputation as one of the top agencies in the US as a result of an awe-inspiring run of big account wins in the late 2000s and early 2010s. In pitches, its record was virtually unblemished, and even the handful of important accounts it lost after 2005 ended up back at the agency again after a couple of years elsewhere. It's proof that experience counts. McGarryBowen may seem like a "new" agency but in fact its leaders have a long and distinguished record in the industry, dating back to the 1970s. McGarryBowen was already established as one of New York's most admired independents when it was acquired in 2008 by Japanese giant Dentsu. It continued to win new clients at an extraordinary rate, placing it high among the fastest-growing agencies in the US. It launched its first European offices during 2012, with the rebranding of Dentsu outposts in London and Duesseldorf. Further openings in other markets have followed. These have occupied much of the agency's time and energy, and new business performance has been somewhat less starry since 2013, though there have still been several key wins. It is the lead advertising network within what is now Dentsu Aegis Network.

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Brands & Activities

McGarryBowen is best-known for a sort of modern update on old-school TV advertising, making good (but not excessive) use of sentiment and emotion. Creative work is solid and reliable rather than outstanding or innovative. The agency's ads may not win shelves of awards or become viral hits, but they are always of the highest quality, polished and professional. McGarryBowen also pleases more traditional clients by backing up its ideas with intensive consumer research, a discipline not always favoured by young agencies. Ad Age estimated total revenues of $236m in 2017, including $186m from the US. By mid 2016, the agency operated 11 offices in seven countries.

Originally launched in 2002, McGarryBowen first made for a name for itself three years later, collecting several significant new accounts to add to its work for flagship client Verizon. Although it subsequently lost the Verizon business as a result of consolidation of the account into McCann, McGarryBowen had established a reputation as one of New York's most admired independents by 2008, the same year it was acquired by Denstu for an undisclosed sum. The Japanese giant wisely left the agency to operate independently from its other American interests, and McGarryBowen firmly established itself after that as the undisputed jewel in Dentsu's international network.

The Dentsu deal prompted another burst of growth during 2009. McGarryBowen opened a second office, in Chicago, and not only recaptured a large chunk of the Verizon account (for the launch of Droid handsets), but also persuaded Kraft to transfer several more large tranches of business away from longtime incumbent Ogilvy. As a result, AdAge honoured McGarryBowen as its Agency of the Year for 2009. Another string of wins during 2010 earned the agency the runner-up position in AdAge's 2010 Agency of the Year round-up. Several additional wins - not least Sears, Bud Light, Burger King and United Continental - in 2011 earned the shop the accolade of US Agency of the Year from both AdAge and Adweek. An office opened in San Francisco in 2014, followed by San Antonio a year later. In 2017, McGarryBowen acquired San Francisco digital agency Swirl, which becomes Swirl McGarryBowen.

In 2010, the agency announced plans to open its first international outpost in London in response to requests from key multinational clients including Kraft, Disney and Marriott. There were no further developments on that front until 2012, when reports emerged that group was planning to take control of Dentsu's two hitherto marginal outposts in London and Duesseldorf. Dentsu London - the faded remnants of what was once fabled UK agency CDP - rebranded as McGarryBowen at the beginning of the year. The German office followed suit in June. A first office in Asia opened at the end of 2012 in Shanghai.

In summer 2014, the group absorbed an existing Dentsu Aegis unit in Brazil, Age Isobar, which became McGarryBowen Sao Paulo. An outpost in Singapore was established in 2015, as a result of a 20% equity stake in local shop Mangham Gaxiola, now ManghamGaxiola McGarryBowen. Later the same year, the group acquired French luxury agency Same Same But Different, which was rebranded as McGarryBowen Luxury. In early 2016, the Netherlands joined the network, following the purchase and rebranding of Amsterdam agency Achtung. An Indian office was added later the same year following the acquisition of what is now Happy McGarryBowen.

Background

Despite its funky lower-case logo and no-spacing name, "mcgarrybowen" is in many ways an agency of the old school, reflecting more than 100 years of industry experience shared by its four founders, all alumni of pre-WPP Y&R. The names above the title belong to experienced account manager John McGarry (now in his 70s), a former president of Y&R until his early retirement in 1998, and creative director Gordon Bowen (60 in 2011). They were supported by two other Y&R alumni, Stewart Owen (also 60) and Stan Stefanski. (Stefanski later left the agency; the other three founders remain in situ).

Having launched without clients in 2002, McGarry caught a lucky break when he secured a one-off project for the newly created Verizon as a result of an old personal contact. The resulting ad impressed the phone company so much that it ended up shifting its entire mammoth account to the start-up a month later. Several additional wins made McGarryBowen one of the industry's fastest-growing start-ups ever. Claimed billings for 2005 topped $800m. As a result, the May 2007 news that Verizon would consolidate its advertising with McCann Erickson threatened to leave a gaping hole in McGarryBowen's portfolio. Undaunted, the agency plugged that gap with new wins from Kraft and Walt Disney, and John McGarry's persistence led to the agency winning back the launch campaign for Verizon's Droid phone in 2009. A steady string of additional account wins have followed ever since, including the launch campaign for Verizon's iPhone in 2011. Another departed client, Reebok, returned to McGarryBowen in early 2012.

Last full revision 2nd November 2016

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