Craik Jones staff to reapply for jobs in Proximity merger

LONDON - Staff at Craik Jones are understood to be having to reapply for their jobs as parent Omnicom and its advertising subsidiary BBDO start the process of merging it with BBDO's DM agency Proximity London under the Proximity brand name.

Proximity’s chief executive officer, Amanda Phillips, is to remain in position, while Mike Welsh, Craik Jones’ CEO, is expected to take a senior role within Proximity.

Phillips would not confirm the staff reapplication process. From a legal and HR perspective, we’re going through all the proper procedures you’d expect with a merger to make sure everyone gets treated fairly, Phillips said. It’s especially important for Craik Jones as the smaller company that they get treated appropriately and fairly.

She said Craik Jones’ sixty staff would move from the agency’s Regent Street offices to Proximity’s Marylebone headquarters over the next two months. Senior Craik Jones staffers, including creative directors Rebecca Rae and David Brown, are thought to be making the move.

Craik Jones’ remaining clients, including Unilever, Homebase and the recently-won account for Great Ormond Street, are expected to transfer to Proximity. We’re in discussion with Craik Jones’ clients to make sure we bring over as much business as we can, Phillips said.

The catalyst for the merger was the announcement this month that Boots Advantage Card, a key Craik Jones client, is calling a review, business that Proximity is now expected to bid for.

Rumours that BBDO would fold Craik Jones into Proximity have been circulating for over a year during which the agency suffered the loss of key accounts Land Rover and Orange, as well as senior staff.

There is regret amongst industry leaders at the demise of Craik Jones, one of DM’s most creatively successful agencies of the past 20 years. The agency won more than 200 major awards in 17 years, including three DMA Awards’ Grand Prix. One DM agency chief said it was bad for the industry when one of your flagship agencies calls it a day.

An observer close to Craik Jones said a merger was logical but gutting as AMV BBDO looks to save operating costs in a downturn. BBDO has incredibly challenging double digit profit targets and it has been known for a long time that they can’t invest in two DM brands. In these challenging and changing times that led to under investment in Craik Jones, which has always been about creativity. That creativity needed time and space to flourish.

One former Craik Jones staffer commented: There was no massive advantage to Craik Jones being part of that group [Omnicom], with Proximity always being first to the pitching table. He added that in the years since Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel launched in 1991, when there were only two good DM agencies in town, competition had proliferated.

Welsh, the former managing director of another Omnicom agency, Claydon Heeley, was moved to Craik Jones in February to shore up the agency’s flagging fortunes after Land Rover and Orange went to Wunderman last summer. But the loss of yet another flagship account, Boots, proved to be the straw that broke Craik Jones’ back.