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D'Arcy Worldwide was the final incarnation of the agency formerly known as DMB&B. In 2002 it became the most prominent victim of the consolidation which followed the takeover of BCom3 by Publicis. The D'Arcy network was carved up and distributed between the French group's other agencies, including Publicis Worldwide in the US, Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi elsewhere. Prior to its break-up, Advertising Age had ranked D'Arcy as the #14 agency network worldwide in 2001 with gross income of $763m and billings of $9.5bn (excluding specialised marketing services subsidiaries).
Like most modern agencies, D'Arcy was already the product of a series of mergers and takeovers. Ironically, its final name was also its very first. William Cheever D'Arcy set up the D'Arcy Advertising Company in 1906 in St Louis. One of his first clients was an Atlanta-based business which made a fizzy brown soda water called Coca-Cola. It was D'Arcy's idea to show how Coca-Cola could become part of "the pleasant interludes of everyday life". In 1929, the agency's creative chief Archie Lee came up with the slogan "The pause that refreshes", and two years later commissioned painter Haddon Sundbloom to create a portrait of Santa Claus enjoying a Coke. Plastered on billboards all over America, this image cemented the modern vision of the Christmas icon as a rotund and jovial white-beard dressed in red and white. (Most earlier images of Santa Claus showed him either as a lean, dashing figure on a white horse, or a diminutive clean-shaven elf.)
By 1950, however, William D'Arcy and Archie Lee were dead, and Coke was engaged in a new challenge to establish itself in other countries. As a result, after handling Coca-Cola in the US for almost 50 years, D'Arcy lost the account in 1956 to the more widespread network of McCann-Erickson, which already managed most international advertising for the brand. It marked the handover of the account with a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal under the headline "We hand it over with pride". handed over the account Yet the early success of Coca-Cola had won D'Arcy another important beverage account back in 1915. Despite the interruption caused by Prohibition, D'Arcy continued to handle the Budweiser account right up until 1994. A key innovation was the use of Budweiser's printed label as the focus of its marketing during the 1960s, which led to considerable demand from consumers for Bud-branded goods.
However the agency's status gradually slipped over the following few years. It lost several key accounts including Royal Crown Cola (with which it had attempted to replace Coke) and McDonald's, and the company merged in 1971 with Detroit-based McManus Inc to form D'Arcy-MacManus International. The international part was supplied by a side deal, in which the US company also acquired a minority shareholding in Intermarco, a European advertising network based in the Netherlands. MacManus chairman Ernest Jones retained the role of chairman-CEO of the enlarged business. However the Intermarco partnership did not work out and was terminated in 1973 after that agency was itself acquired by what was then the newly expanding Publicis. Instead, D'Arcy-MacManus established an even stronger international presence with the purchase of UK group Masius Wynne-Williams. The newly enlarged business changed its name once again to become D'Arcy MacManus Masius. Two further names joined the masthead in June 1985 as a result of a further merger with Benton & Bowles to create D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, soon abbreviated to DMB&B.
That deal was at the time the biggest corporate merger the ad world had ever witnessed, although it was eclipsed only a year later by Saatchi & Saatchi's purchase of Bates and then the creation of Omnicom. Like other such combinations at the time it was designed to consolidate the two component agencies' respective strengths. Still based out of St Louis, D'Arcy was also a major force in Detroit, Chicago, London and Australia, but had only a weak presence in the ad capital New York, which was Benton & Bowles's powerbase. Combined billings of the resulting group were $2.4bn. Conceived as a merger of equals, the stock of the enlarged business was split evenly between D'Arcy's and Benton & Bowles's shareholders, although it was the latter's John Bowen who took the top role as group chairman & CEO, with D'Arcy's Hal Bay becoming president & COO. Following the tide within the marketplace, the newly combined D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles proceeded to diversify into other marketing disciplines through acquisition, and MacManus Group was eventually formed in 1996 to house the expanding business, under former DMB&B CEO Roy Bostock.
However the 1990s were not generally a particularly productive period for the core advertising agency, marked by a series of account losses. One of the most serious of these was Budweiser, a $100m account which finally shifted out of DMB&B in 1994 after almost 79 years with the company. (As a valedictory farewell, the agency's last ad for the beer aired a month after the account transferred to DDB, and introduced the enormously popular Budweiser frogs). A series of other accounts departed between 1994 and 1997, including Kraft General Foods, Whirlpool, Denny's Restaurants, Amoco, Blockbuster Entertainment, Tyco Toys (following its acquisition by Mattel), Baskin-Robbins and Aleve (as a result of its purchase by Roche).
Following Roy Bostock's elevation to group chairman, Arthur Selkowitz was named as the new CEO of DMB&B in 1997, with John Farrell as head of the North American arm. Yet despite this change, and a few small but notable account gains, the steady erosion of DMB&B's client portfolio continued, leaving the agency increasingly reliant on three major clients of Procter & Gamble, General Motors and M&M Mars. This was matched by a gradual shrinking of the D'Arcy network as peripheral offices became unproductive. In 1998, Gateway Computers transferred its $70m account, forcing DMB&B to issue a lawsuit against the client for unpaid expenses. In 1999, in search of a further lift, DMB&B officially changed its name to D'Arcy. The next three years saw the creation of BCom3 and that group's subsequent acquisition by Publicis.
As a result of the Publicis takeover it became obvious that there would need to be some restructuring of both groups' assets. D'Arcy was already under some pressure. Key client Mars was to provide the catalyst for further corporate change. In 2002, the agency announced the closure of its office in St Louis. For many years, the D'Arcy headquarters, the office had become increasingly unproductive since losing the Budweiser account. By now it was largely devoted to Mars business, which D'Arcy management reallocated to busier outposts in Los Angeles and New York. Although Mars appeared to have accepted that decision, it was in fact the final straw in the gradual erosion of the two companies' relationship. In Spring 2002 Mars pulled its creative account from D'Arcy and shifted media duties from the agency's media unit MediaVest a few weeks later. That move coincided with the loss of P&G's Pampers and the agency's remaining regional business for Burger King. A month after the completion of its acquisition of BCom3 in September 2002, Publicis announced that the D'Arcy network would be eliminated, merged into its other agency groups.
The carve-up of the worldwide network took much of 2003. In the US, its biggest market, D'Arcy was for the most part merged into the Publicis USA network. Some accounts and personnel transferred into Saatchi & Saatchi, while D'Arcy Detroit was rebranded as Chemistri to take over work for General Motors. (It was eventually absorbed into Leo Burnett Detroit). Several accounts and staff from the Los Angeles office were transferred into Dentsu-owned Colby & Partners. The London outpost of D'Arcy, like most others in the international network, was folded into Leo Burnett. Brazilian shop Salles/D'Arcy was folded into Publicis Norton (becoming Publicis Salles Norton). In Russia, where D'Arcy was a joint venture with local managers, the agency's president set up independent shop Rodnaya Rech to take over several of its accounts. Most of D'Arcy's below-the-line satellites were rebranded in 2002 as Arc Marketing. Integrated agency Masius and interactive arm Semaphore Partners were shifted into the main Publicis Groupe pool. D'Arcy Directory Marketing, a US yellow pages agency specializing in print and internet directory media, became part of Starcom MediaVest Group.
John Farrell, president and CEO of D'Arcy Worldwide, moved to Publicis Group as president & CEO of Specialised Agencies and Marketing Services, but eventually left the group in 2008. Susan Gianinno, formerly chairman of D'Arcy Worldwide and chief branding officer, became chairman & CEO of Publicis USA. She was still there as chairman in 2015. Lee Garfinkel, chief creative officer, was offered the same role for the Publicis Worldwide network, but opted instead to leave the group, joining DDB, and more recently FCB.
Last full revision 3rd October 2017
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