Now $100m Applebee’s restaurants dumps McCann

Life really doesn’t get any better for Interpublic’s McCann Erickson and its bosses Nick Brien, head of McCann Worldgroup, and Linus Karlsson, chairman and CCO of both McCann New York and McCann London.

Now Applebee’s Neighbourhood Grill & Bar has announced it is dumping McCann New York although it is staying with sibling media agency Universal McCann (which actually seems to be doing quite well).

Applebee’s is not a big global account like Nestle or Exxon, both of which have recently departed McCann. But it claims to be America’s biggest neighbourhood eating chain and spends a chunky $100m across a board that includes TV, Press and social media.

Once the wind starts blowing in the wrong direction it’s very difficult for agencies to change course. McCann is certainly trying to with the hire of Karlssson, one of the founders of the successful New York office of UK agency Mother. Karlsson, in turn, has rounded up a number of mostly Swedish helpers, do far to little avail apart from an assignment to handle the Ikea catalogue.

But the hire of Karlsson and company is a huge cultural change for an agency that epitomises the ‘Mad Men’ era of ironclad account handling more than any of its peers.

The agency has also recently lost strategy boss Lee Daley and North American president Robert LePlae which suggests that others at the agency are not as sanguine about the creative revolution as Brien presumably is.

The person who really matters, of course, is Interpublic CEO Michael Roth. Roth has done a sterling job turning around Interpublic in financial terms. But he needs his three big agency networks – McCann, DraftFCB and Lowe – to keep performing.

Lowe, on the back of heavy investment by its parent seems to be picking up. But DraftFCB, which recently lost $1bn SC Johnson to BBDO and Ogilvy & Mather, and flagship agency McCann most definitely are not.

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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.