It's certainly not the Christmas present DraftFCB/Chicago would have wanted. But S.C. Johnson, one of the agency's longest-standing and biggest clients, said Wednesday it is putting its entire portfolio of brands into review.
A S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said Thursday that DraftFCB will defend the business. If the agency emerges victorious from the review -- a big if in the eyes of some observers -- a major bloodbath at the agency could be averted.
One source familiar with agency staffing estimated that a loss of all the S.C. Johnson business could result in as many as 200 to 300 layoffs at DraftFCB. This would be catastrophic for DraftFCB and for the Chicago advertising industry, which has been reeling for several years now from agency downsizing and wave after wave of client defections.
Speculation immediately turned to which local shops might be able to win the business and keep it here. But the list of viable prospects doesn't look to be very long. Leo Burnett might be reluctant to participate because of its close ties to Procter & Gamble, but sources said there don't appear to be any major direct conflicts on the agency's client roster.
Some mentioned Energy BBDO, but it might be too small unless it managed to partner with other Omnicom agencies to create a global network. Element 79 has been mentioned as well. Agency leader Brian Williams headed up Foote Cone & Belding prior to its merger with Draft. He is very familiar with S.C. Johnson. But Element 79 also would have to partner with other Omnicom shops to create any global heft -- an arrangement that might be awkward at best.
But there's another intriguing scenario that has been mentioned. DDB/Chicago could appoint Mark Modesto as its new president and CEO, thereby paving the way for him to help the agency land the S.C. Johnson business.
Modesto had been in charge of the S.C. Johnson North American business at DraftFCB until he was abruptly ousted in August. But it's unclear how favorably he is now viewed within S.C. Johnson because of the fallout from his departure from DraftFCB. The addition of the huge S.C. Johnson account would be a major boost to the beleaguered DDB.
The ineffectual Rick Carpenter resigned as DDB/Chicago president and CEO in early December.