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Could Mark Modesto’s sudden exit cost Interpublic’s DraftFCB $1bn in SC Johnson billings?

They used to say that the most important JWT executive in the US wasn’t the boss but the guy handling the Ford account. So if you had to lose one or the other it was best to get rid of the boss.

In the case of DraftFCB Chicago owner Interpublic has managed to get rid of both on its flagship SC Johnson household products account.

Back in August president Mark Modesto, who had risen through the ranks due to his closeness to Pledge manufacturer SC Johnson, was escorted from the office along with CFO Bob Mallers and chief of staff Bill McCarthy.

There then ensued a deafening silence while, presumably, lawyers talked to each other. In the meantime DraftFCB drafted in Michael Fassnacht (left) and Mark Pacchini to run the office (DraftFCB is by far the network’s biggest) and worked hard on SC Johnson.

Alas it seems as though their efforts have failed. SC Johnson put its $1bn global account up for review on the day before Christmas Eve.

SC Johnson is DraftFCB’s biggest account, some reckon it’s the biggest account handled by anyone out of Chicago. Were it to leave the agency it would be a devastating blow, not just to DraftFCB but to Interpublic too.

Direct marketing agency Draft and what used to be Foote Cone & Belding merged in 2006. It has never been the happiest of marriages with many observers saying the two cultures failed to blend and former staffers saying it was the worst place to work in Chicago.

But, while it had SC Johnson anyway, the agency remained the only other credible network within IPG, behind behemoth McCann Erickson.

Something truly dramatic must have occurred for IPG to risk this fragile status by dumping Modesto and his chums. The Chicago Sun-Times speculates that Modesto was trying to move the account to another agency prior to his sudden departure.

So a tricky scenario for DraftFCB and IPG and nobody can say IPG didn’t take firm action. But it looks as though it’s going to lose the business anyway.

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Bill McCarthy Bob Mallers draftfcb Interpublic Mark Modesto Mark Pacchini Michael Fassnacht pledge sc johnson

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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