Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For whom the bell tolls

Chapter Nineteen


I was able to make a relatively smooth transition to another St. Louis Agency, DMB&B (D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles). Interestingly enough, my new job had me managing the advertising account of SBC Communications, the parent company of Southwestern Bell which had recently merged with Pacific Bell. The Telecommunications business continues to evolve from the historic breakup of AT&T in 1984. Somehow, SBC managed to get approval to merge two baby bells.Manifest destiny or survival or just expert financial and political maneuvering, I really can’t say. The irony is that one merger caused my job loss and another resulted in my hiring (for a time).

I joined DMB&B, St. Louis in the middle of 1996. DMB&B St. Louis is perhaps most famous for the original Budweiser “Frogs” commercial. Bud-weis-errrrr. As one of three supervisors assigned to the SBC business I was poised to learn a new category (for me) and witness an historic time for Telecommunications industry up close. It’s a big category of business to be sure. SBC has approximately 110,000 employees and with its acquisition of Pacific Telesis (The parent of Pacific Bell) it reported combined 1996 revenues of $23.5 Billion. SBC moved their offices and most of their key marketing decision-makers to San Antonio, Texas. As an account with a lot of clout and with over $100 Million to spend on consumer media they were highly sought client prospect. D’Arcy calculated that they could continue to manage the account from St. Louis. This mis-calculation and the client’s desire to pare down their agency roster eventually led to D’Arcy losing the business, effective at the end of 1998. Here’s how the St. Louis Business Journal reported that account loss:

“SBC Communications, one of D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles’ largest clients, pulled its work from the St. Louis advertising firm after more than 30 years. The SBC business represents about a quarter of D’Arcy’s revenue, which was an
estimated $31.5 million last year, sources said. SBC notified D’Arcy of the decision Monday. The telecommunications giant will send advertising developed here to agencies SBC works for in Austin, Texas and San Francisco. In a nutshell: I was a key man on two of St. Louis’s top advertising accounts - Both moved their business elsewhere after mergers. Both centralized their marketing function outside
St. Louis. (Some strategic career move I made coming to St. Louis, huh?)

note: This blog is part of a larger book that can be downloaded FREE, chapter by chapter, at
note:For Whom the Bell Tolls is a Hemmingway novel but the title comes from writing of John Donne in the 1600s. "No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

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