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More trouble for BBH as North America boss Steve Harty quits

What a difference an account makes. Shortly after Bartle Bogle Hegarty in the US lost the Cadillac account to Fallon the agency’s most senior executive in the US, group chairman Steve Harty, is on his bike.

Harty had only been in his new new job for a few months after five years at the agency, with a brief to build the BBH presence in the US by acquiring other marcomms companies.

In one of those convoluted statements beloved of today’s corporates BBH told Ad Age: “Having developed a more acquisition-focussed approach to building the agency of the future, Steve is naturally enthusiastic to see that approach and vision realised and, as a consequence, has decided to leave BBH in order to pursue it elsewhere.”

This is premier league non-sequitur stuff.

What is actually means is ‘we don’t have as much money as we thought we did so Steve has been made redundant.’

Harty, who was a founder of Merkley Newman Harty, now owned by Omnicom, says he’s going to be a consultant for a while.

Meanwhile London-headquartered BBH, battered and bruised, has to think about what it’s going to do with its US operation or even whether or not it’s going to stay there. As does its 49 per cent shareholder, and ultimate bankroller, Publicis Groupe.

The trigger for all this, although perhaps not the underlying malaise at BBH US, was the tsunami unleashed on General Motors’ various ad agencies by new marketing supremo Joel Ewanick.

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Within days of moving from Hyundai Ewanick fired Publicis from GM’s biggest account Chevrolet and moved it to Goodby Silverstein and then dumped BBH in favour of Publicis Groupe sibling Fallon.

BBH, one of the world’s great creative agencies and hitherto the proud owner of a highly successful ‘micro network’ in the UK, the US, Brazil and the Far East, is facing the biggest crisis in its 28-year history.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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