IT’S A NEW DAY at Euro RSCG/Chicago. That might not sound like a big deal. But it really is, considering where Euro was as recently as last year when the agency looked to be falling backwards to the near corpselike state that threatened the agency’s very survival seven or eight years ago.
Last year, the agency was making little or no progress in winning new business and was even having trouble holding on to its handful of existing general market clients, including the high-profile Valspar paint account (now gone).
Then over the past 12 months several things happened in quick succession that seem to have sparked the beginnings of a turnaround.
First, co-chief creative officer Blake Ebel left to head up an agency in Colorado. Then Jason Peterson arrived from New York in December as Euro’s new chief creative officer just as Steffan Postaer was exiting that role to become chairman of the agency, before finally leaving Euro altogether in January.
Euro co-president Jamie King departed shortly after Postaer, paving the way for Norm Yustin to take King’s place in February alongside co-president Joy Schwartz, who remains at Euro.
More important, while all these top management changes were happening, the agency was beginning to gather steam on the new business front. In recent months, Euro has gone after no fewer than eight new pieces of business and won them all, according to Yustin.
Three wins helped Euro turn the corner
Perhaps the three biggest wins — ones that suggest the agency just may have turned a significant corner — are the Reynolds Group account (including Reynolds wrap and Hefty bags), Pucker flavored vodka from the Jim Beam Brands portfolio and the Cracker Barrel restaurant account, which Euro won in a shootout with several other shops, including Element 79/Chicago and Campbell Mithun/Minneapolis.
Of those wins, Cracker Barrel may prove to be the more interesting and challenging. Cracker Barrel is an old-school family restaurant chain with more than 600 outlets that is hugely popular in the southeast.
But sources say Cracker Barrel, headquartered in Lebanon, Tenn., is now planning a significant expansion and is looking to increase its customer base via some new newfangled social media tactics — a part of the marketing mix in which Euro’s Peterson is well-versed.
That’s not to say Euro RSCG/Chicago won’t have a chance to do more traditional forms of advertising, including television and outdoor, for Cracker Barrel. In fact, Cracker Barrel is a familiar presence in the outdoor advertising arena and expects to remain so.
In April Cracker Barrel was inducted into the Outdoor Advertising Association’s Hall of Fame for its long history of doing high-profile outdoor advertising.
But above all, Peterson and his creative team at Euro are eager to make their new restaurant client more relevant to younger customers that may know of Cracker Barrel, but still be weary of some of the less trendy trappings that have nonetheless kept the chain popular for decades.
Judging by their relatively brief track record together at Euro RSCG, Yustin and Peterson appear to be have the kind of chemistry that can produce results. Peterson has been careful to let all the Euro staffers in his creative department and beyond share in the welcome success the agency has had of late.
Yustin brings a client-side perspective
There is a giant billboard in the lobby of the floor where creatives are housed at Euro that includes work for current clients and those the agency is pitching. Everyone at Euro is encouraged to post comments and suggestions about the creative on that board.
And Yustin, most recently chief marketing officer at the Claire’s apparel store chain, brings a client-side perspective to Euro that has been useful in tailoring new business pitches.
After a long stint working at various shops in New York City, Peterson said he has adjusted well to being back in Chicago, where he started his career as a creative. “I just miss a couple of things, like a special taco place and the coffee shops I obsessed about in New York,” Peterson told us.
But right now Peterson realizes it will reflect well on both him and Yustin if they can make Euro a genuine success story here in Chicago, where successes have been exceedingly rare in recent years. The two Euro RSCG/Chicago executives know they are making good progress.
It’s now just a question of how far they can go.
O&M POISED TO LAND S.C. JOHNSON BUSINESS
FROM WHAT WE‘RE HEARING, it appears Ogilvy & Mather is indeed the frontrunner in the competition to land the huge $1 billion S.C. Johnson advertising account.
But given the thick cloak of secrecy surrounding the review, no one is prepared to say with 100 per cent certainty that Ogilvy will win the business. The announcement of the winner could come any day.
Elsewhere on the new business front, sources say TBWA/Chiat/Day may have the edge at the moment in the Chicago-based United Airlines agency review, which also includes McGarryBowen in Chicago and Arnold/ Boston. The winner in that review is expected to be revealed next month.
Read Lewis Lazare Tuesdays and Thursdays in ReelChicago. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org