Element 79 : advertising & marketing profile

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Element 79 was a standalone full-service agency within the Omnicom Group between 2001 and 2012. Advertising Age estimated US revenues of $21m in 2011, down more than 60% since its heyday in 2007. During that five-year period, Element 79 steadily lost all of the brand accounts it handled for its first and biggest client, PepsiCo, casting something of a shadow over its future. Chief creative officer Dennis Ryan quit in 2011 after seven years at the agency, and the business was eventually absorbed into DDB Chicago in September 2012. CEO Brian Williams left the group following that transfer.

Element 79 was set up in late 2001 specifically to handle PepsiCo's Quaker brands. The agency had a bruising gestation. The Quaker brands had previously been handled by the Chicago office of Interpublic's FCB, but the $350m account was pulled in 2001 after Quaker was acquired by Pepsi. (Arch-rival Coca-Cola had close ties with FCB's sister agency McCann-Erickson). Instead Pepsi shifted the business into Omnicom, encouraging that group to hire former FCB Chicago chief Brian Williams to run the account. Interpublic reacted with a lawsuit designed to prevent Williams from taking the job, but this was quashed by a US court. Williams promptly recruited a number of other senior executives from FCB Chicago to handle the business, including key accounts Gatorade, Tropicana juice and bottled water brand Aquafina. Coke upped the stakes by announcing that it would move its equivalent brands Powerade, Minute Maid and Dasani into FCB Chicago instead. This time it was Omnicom and Quaker who reacted, launching a suit to prevent four remaining FCB Chicago execs who had previously worked on the Quaker account from talking to Coca-Cola.

The two sides eventually agreed a truce, essentially a postponement of the assignment of Coke's business. Meanwhile DDB Chicago set about establishing a standalone unit to handle the Quaker business. Initially given the working title of Verus, it was later launched as Element 79 Partners, after the atomic number for gold in the Periodic Table. Element 79 continued to handle a growing collection of Pepsi-owned brands over the next few years. During the course of 2008, however, it began to steadily lose its hold on its founding client as, one after another, each brand transferred out to other Omnicom agencies.

Last full revision 12th July 2016

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