Oh Lori! Ad war breaks out between Kirshenbaum and McCanns

A New York ad war has broken out between ambitious Toronto-based MDC, owner of Kirshenbaum Bond and McCann-Erickson, former home to Kirschenbaum Bond’s new president-ceo Lori Senecal (who’s now got her name on the door too).

Lawyers have been called in and IPG’s McCanns is suing MDC, although not Senecal oddly, because, it claims, that prior to her resignation she had “near daily contact” with MDC CEO Miles Nadal, “sparking each others’ interest in the business plans, concepts, clientele and key McCann employees Senecal expected to bring to KBS/MDC.”

In particular McCanns alleges that Nadal and Senecal were hatching a plot to pinch all of the Weight Watchers account, currently split between the two agencies. Quite what Weight Watchers makes of this is anyone’s guess.

For its part MDC says that McCanns offered to settle its lawsuit for an immaterial amount of cash plus a standstill on hiring any more McCann employees or soliciting business. MDC says the lawsuit is “patently false and inaccurate.”

It’s certainly true that Kirshenbaum has hired a significant number of McCanns staff (Kirschenbaum says they were going anyway). In Europe these days you have to hire people who worked on the account in the old agency anyway, not that that stops rival parties making it to the steps of the court in such disputes. Last year WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell sued the founding partners of Adam & Eve for showing undue interest in some of the clients at their old agency Y&R.

And that’s the trouble. These interesting spats are usually settled out of court and at the very last minute.

Whatever the aggrieved agency might say, clients do follow individuals.

When Sir Frank Lowe left IPG-owned Lowe Group to set up The Red Brick Road in London a couple of years ago with Lowe London’s biggest account Tesco there’s no doubt that someone at IPG would have had a chat with its lawyers. And then decided that taking on the giant Tesco wasn’t a good idea after all.

So this latest farrago may well be decided by Weight Watchers.

Who might just decide to move the account somewhere completely different.

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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.