Two of the biggest direct marketing agency brands in the UK are being axed in a major Publicis Group shake-up which will see both Publicis Chemistry and Kitcatt Nohr folded into DigitasLBi.
Publicis Chemistry can trace its roots back to late 1999 when Joe Garton merged his agency Manifesto into Diane Charlton’s digital shop, Fusion Interactive, to form The Interactive Agency.
Two years later it was relaunched as Chemistry Communications and eventually bought by Publicis in 2011 in a deal worth £14.45m, and came out on top in a merger with Publicis Dialog. However, in recent years it has suffered at the hands of rivals and having just lost its biggest client, mobile giant EE, it seems the agency is on its knees.
Chemistry managing director Emma Rush, who was appointed two years ago to succeed Mike Welsh, will now become managing director of data services and transformation at Publicis UK.
Meanwhile group creative directors Jason Fletcher and Marcus Iles, who also joined Chemistry in 2015, will now be group creative directors at Publicis UK and continue to sit on the Publicis UK creative board.
The writing has been on the wall for some time over at Kitcatt Nohr, following the departure of the last remaining co-founder Vonnie Alexander, who, along with chief strategy officer Richard Madden, left in July 2015. Paul Kitcatt had left three months earlier, while Marc Nohr and the late Jeremy Shaw quit in late 2013.
Launched in 2002, the founders were courted for years, eventually selling to Publicis in 2011. Kitcatt Nohr was actually folded into LBi in 2012 but managed to retain its name.
Just last month, the founders and major shareholders of Kitcatt Nohr launched a High Court claim against Publicis Group for £8.5m – including £4.9m in unpaid earn-outs and £3.6m in damages for breach of contract – amid claims that Publicis misled them about an existing relationship with client Procter & Gamble. The judge is currently considering his verdict.
Current Kitcatt Nohr managing director Hattie Whiting will now run the new operation as managing director of CRM at DigitasLBi, and continue to report to Michael Islip, UK chief executive at DigitasLBi.
Publicis claims the merger will not result in any redundancies, with an 85-strong team handling all Kitcatt Nohr and Chemistry clients, including Nissan, Sky, Procter & Gamble and Heineken. It is understood that some staff will transfer to Wunderman, which picked up the EE business from Chemistry in December, under TUPE rules.
The changes are designed to pool Publicis’ UK direct marketing offering and allow ad agencies – including Publicis London, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett – to access CRM and data resources for their clients.
Islip said: “By bringing together the creative, strategic and technology talents of Kitcatt Nohr and Chemistry, we’re setting up a CRM team that’s fighting fit for the future and with the scale to service the many brilliant brands that we work with. The team are already putting this into practice for brands like HSBC and the AA.”
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