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The departures just keep on coming at DraftFCB/Chicago. First there was Mark Modesto. Then Karen Sauder. Now DraftFCB has told its staff chief creative officer Rob Sherlock will soon be exiting the Chicago office to take a role elsewhere in the DraftFCB international network. But Sherlock will stay on at least for a while in some sort of transitional mode as the shop searches for his successor.

While it may be viewed as coincidental by some, it can't be much of a coincidence that Sherlock is exiting as DraftFCB faces what may be the challenge of its life trying to hold on to the $1 billion S.C. Johnson account. Though many observers assume the huge piece of business is all but gone already, DraftFCB folks perhaps can be forgiven for thinking they can hold on to it.

It's possible the agency may land a hotshot creative talent to replace Sherlock. But whatever Sherlock may have done to help DraftFCB's fortunes since he arrived in 2007, he, alas, hasn't given the agency a high-profile creative reputation. Or much of a creative reputation of any sort, actually. That could be problematic if the agency hopes to attract a top-notch creative leader who could give the shop a fighting chance to retain the S.C. Johnson business.

Is Jonathan Harries on his way out as global chief creative officer at DraftFCB? Rumors swirled this week to that effect.

One scenario had him joining forces at some yet-to-be-determined shop with ousted DraftFCB leader Mark Modesto, who has been keeping a low profile since he abruptly exited DraftFCB last summer. According to one source, Modesto had a one-year non-compete clause in his contract with DraftFCB, which could put him back in business at another agency in about six months.

A DraftFCB spokesman, however, emphatically rebuffed the rumors about Harries. "Jonathan isn't going anywhere," said the spokesman, who indicated Harries has been spending considerable time in Europe recently, overseeing the $700 million global Beiersdorf account DraftFCB recently won.

Nivea, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, is a flagship product line at Beiersdorf. The Hamburg, Germany-based company said today that global music icon Rihanna will serves as the voice of the 100th birthday celebration for Nivea.

The Beiersdorf win is a welcome piece of new business for DraftFCB, as the agency tries to hold on to the $1 billion S.C. Johnson account, which is now in review.

It Gets Better Screengrab.JPGThese are not the best of times for DraftFCB. Among other things, the shop is under the gun to hold on to its giant S.C. Johnson account, which is in review. If it goes away, DraftFCB will kiss goodbye to an estimated $1 billion in billings.

But on a kinder, gentler note, the agency has created a new video to support the "It Gets Better" project initiated last year by columnist and author Dan Savage. In this instance, "it gets better" refers to the belief that the world is slowly becoming a better, more welcoming place for gays and lesbians, though no one would suggest the battle is done.

The DraftFCB video features an array of DraftFCB staffers ranging from CEO Laurence Boschetto to public relations honcho Wally Petersen and others in various DraftFCB outposts recounting some of the tough times they've had in their lives and encouraging all within earshot to believe it does get better.

A DraftFCB spokeswoman said the agency is not the first advertising shop to create such a video, but it is perhaps the largest to do so to date. Of course it takes guts to stand in front of a camera and talk very publicly and candidly about one's identity and one's life struggles. And we suspect many in ad agencies here in Chicago and elsewhere who might relate to the message in the video would not be as willing to do what these gutsy DraftFCB folk have done.

If the video inspires courage and hope in others that see it, well, it will have been a gutsy deed with a wonderful payoff.

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.

S.C. Johnson has dropped a huge bomb. The Racine, Wis.-based global giant in home care is putting the advertising accounts for its entire global portfolio of brands into review -- business potentially worth hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to the agency or agencies that wind up winning the business. Chicago-based R3:JLB will assist S.C. Johnson in selecting the agencies to compete in the review.

A S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said the agency review is all about improving the company's marketing services capabilities and will encompass all aspects of the company's global marketing needs, including advertising, digital/Internet, shopper marketing, promotions, direct marketing and media buying and planning.

S.C. Johnson's decision to put its entire portfolio of brands into review could spell disaster for DraftFCB/Chicago, which, dating back as far as 1953, has handled advertising for a large number of S.C. Johnson brands. Other agencies S.C. Johnson works with include RG/A, Ogilvy and Mullen. The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman indicated incumbents will be invited to participate in the review.

DraftFCB/Chicago of course is no stranger to bombshell developments. The Walmart debacle of several years ago saw DraftFCB/Chicago win the retailing behemoth's $600 million advertising account -- only to lose it just weeks later when Walmart executives began to question the manner in which the agency won the business. A loss of all or a large chunk of the S.C. Johnson business would be far more crippling to the agency because it is so much a part of the fabric of the shop.

The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said there was no timetable established as yet for how quickly the review would be completed. But she said the review will focus on agencies that have a global knowledge and network and that align with the company's values and have a track record of building successful global brands.

DraftFCB/Chicago has promoted group account director Marty Stock to director of account management.

In his new role, Stock will represent the client service function on the agency's executive committee. Stock will remain the group account director overseeing DraftFCB's MillerCoors account. For the past 21 years, Stock has worked on the Coors (now MillerCoors) business, and during that time, he has been involved with virtually every campaign that FCB and now DraftFCB has created for the beer brands. Prior to joining FCB in 1989, Stock worked in St. Louis at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles on the Anheuser-Busch account.

Along the way he also spent time at Young & Rubicam/Chicago.

Dawn Baskin has been promoted to new business development leader at DraftFCB/Chicago. In her new role, Baskin will become a member of the agency's senior leadership team and report to agency president Michael Fassnacht. Baskin began her career in New York at Lowe Advertising and MTV Networks before relocating to Chicago in 1995. She joined DraftFCB two years ago after serving as chief marketing officer at the Zipatoni agency. Additionally, DraftFCB/Chicago said Monday it has promoted Jennifer Neumann and Christine Lindquist to co-lead the agency's healthcare practice. For the past 15 years, Newmann and Lindquist had managed a variety of accounts at the agency, but healthcare has been a special interest of the duo.

Howard Draft - CAF Silver Medal.JPGHe's a veteran all right. But one who's not been nearly so visible or talkative in the Chicago market as he was several years ago, when Howard Draft was hyping a new template for ad agencies he masterminded via the merger of Draft and Foote, Cone & Belding. Now the Chicago Advertising Federation has seen fit to bestow its Silver Medal Lifetime Achievement Award on Howard Draft, officially identifying him as a distinguished member of the Chicago advertising community.

"Howard is a pioneer in the Chicago advertising community," said CAF president Anne Rago. "He is admired for consistently fine-tuning the agency model to provide clients with offerings that are right for the current times and the future as well," added Rago. Draft himself is the executive chairman of an ad agency with Chicago roots that date back to 1873. That would, of course, refer to the roots of the FCB part of the merged agency. The Draft agency that Howard Draft actually founded only dates back to 1978.

Recipients of the CAF's Silver Medal are chosen by a 24-member board who evaluate candidates based on attributes such as contributions to his/her company, creative ability, contributions to the general advancement of advertising, and contributions to the community. Past Silver Medal recipients include Keith Reinhard, Joe Sedelmaier, Bud Frankel and Rick Fizdale.

Howard Draft will receive the medal at a dinner in his honor on Nov. 11, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

MICHAEL Fassnacht Photo.jpgDraftFCB/Chicago has announced a big shake-up in management of its Chicago office and North American operations. Effectively immediately, Michael Fassnacht has been named president of the Chicago shop and a staff of around 1,200 people. He was most recently the agency's worldwide chief strategy officer.

Buried far beneath the news of Fassnacht's new role in the DraftFCB announcement Thursday was the more interesting and potentially disturbing development of the day. Mark Modesto, who most recently was president of DraftFCB North America, has left the agency and his post has been eliminated effective immediately. Prior to getting the North America title last October, Modesto had been president of DraftFCB/Chicago, the job Fassnacht is now taking. The president's post in Chicago had been vacant since Modesto was promoted last fall.

At least one source familiar with developments said Modesto was escorted from the DraftFCB office last night, prior to today's developments. It appears Modesto's abrupt exit from the agency could be related to DraftFCB's SC Johnson account -- a large and lucrative chunk of business that Modesto oversaw in North America. Now Mark Pacchini, who had been handling the SC Johnson business overseas for the last four years and who had worked closely with Modesto in the past, will oversee the SC Johnson account globally.

It could not be immediately determined what, if any issues related to the handling of the SC Johnson account may have precipitated Modesto's sudden exit, but DraftFCB was apparently forced to act urgently. A DraftFCB spokesman said he could not comment on what issues, if any, may have caused Modesto's abrupt exit.

Perhaps a clue to what came down with Modesto is tied to Bob Mallers, DraftFCB/Chicago's chief financial officer, who exited the agency Wednesday along with Modesto. A DraftFCB spokesman said news of Mallers' dismissal was not included in the announcement Thursday because journalists typically aren't interested in such positions. Neil Miller, DraftFCB's corporate chief financial officer, will take over for Mallers on an interim basis.

This is not DraftFCB's first brush with major management problems in recent years. Several years ago as it was yanking its $600 million ad account out of DraftFCB/Chicago soon after the agency won it, Walmart alleged that DraftFCB had used what it considered unacceptable tactics to try and lure the discount retailer's ad account to the agency.

Chicago-based Tony Weisman has expanded his reach within the Digitas empire. Digitas president Colin Kinsella has realigned the company offices. Weisman now becomes president not only of the Chicago office, but of Boston and Detroit too. Weisman also will continue to be the global client lead for Digitas. Joanne Zaiac, currently president of the New York and Stamford operations, will also oversee Digitas' Atlanta office.

"Joanne and Tony are two remarkable leaders who are adept at growing business and attracting top industry talent," said Kinsella. Weisman joined Digitas in 2007, after a stint at DraftFCB/Chicago, where he was reportedly instrumental in helping lure the giant Walmart account to the agency, though the business was there only a short while. Weisman was part of the DraftFCB team that wooed the now infamous former Walmart marketing honcho Julie Roehm and convinced her DraftFCB was where she should put the Walmart account. Within weeks, however, Roehm's superiors had yanked the account from DraftFCB and moved it to the Martin Agency, in Richmond, Va.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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