Why has Interpublic axed the top trio at Draft FCB?

Which it has done in some style, escorting North American president Mark Modesto, CFO Bob Mallers and chief of staff Bill McCarthy out of the Chicago agency building on Wednesday evening.

Whoever comprised IPG’s hit team was probably trying to make sure that Modesto, who’s been with FCB for 30 years, didn’t have the massive SC Johnson account in his pocket. As North American president Modesto ran the agency’s New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Orange County, Toronto and Montreal offices and was particularly close to the household products giant.

His replacement is Michael Fassnacht, the agency’s worldwide strategy officer. Mark Pacchini, who’s been running SC Johnson outside the US, has been given Modesto’s account responsibilities in the US.

So what’s going on then?

So far IPG isn’t saying and messrs Modesto, Mallers and McCarthy are presumably consulting their lawyers. As the three don’t sit on the board of IPG the ever-turbulent marcoms giant can presumably keep its silence but sooner or later it will surely break cover. The phones must be buzzing to SC Johnson and other huge clients like Kraft and KMart already.

IPG shoehorned together Foote Cone and Belding, once a member of the US agency aristocracy, and Howard Draft’s giant direct marketing agency in 2006. Like many IPG moves this seemed to have commercial logic but fly in the face of agency cultures, rather like its attempt to incorporate Sir Frank Lowe’s Lowe Group into IPG a decade earlier.

Mischief-makers in Chicago say that longstanding FCBers have been trying to muscle out the Draft crew despite Howard Draft’s status as executive chairman of the agency.

IPG seems to be saying that it’s the one with muscle.

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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.