Davidson Disappears

By Apr 01, 2000

Lighthouse Global Network is beaming a new signal.

The Chicago-based holding company last month restructured its $30 million marketing services division under a new name, Communicator, and a single mission: To serve clients “from concept to consumption” by collaborating with Lighthouse’s brand development and business communications groups.

Lighthouse named promotions veteran Jay Farrell chairman of Communicator (the name comes from the eponymous U.K. promo agency Lighthouse acquired last May) and made Farrell’s agency, Davidson Marketing, the centerpiece of the organization, which absorbs five other marketing services agencies and realigns them by discipline (see chart).

Lighthouse has been on a shopping spree since October 1998, having bought up 14 marketing service businesses including Chicago-based Davidson last July (September promo). As sister agencies, the new Communicator divisions will work with each other and with Lighthouse’s design shops (Fitch, plc, of London and Worthington, OH, and Primo Angeli, San Francisco) and its M&A-intensive business communications group.

“Ad agencies can position brands, but they can’t help create new products. We can,” Farrell explains. The network can halve the time it takes to create and launch a product, adds vp-new business development Marty Brennan.

Lighthouse’s shops have been collaborating for several months. Joint pitches and referrals brought Davidson new business from Sara Lee, Nabisco, Keebler, and Microsoft, Farrell says.

The Communicator/Marketing Worldwide division – formerly Davidson and London-based Communicator – “sits at the beginning of the marketing services continuum because of its expertise in strategy,” Farrell says. Other divisions will add sports, entertainment, Internet, and merchandising expertise as they fit.

The divisions remain separate profit centers. Farrell sees that as an asset: “We don’t want to be everything to everyone. We want to be best-in-class in different skill sets, and develop a select group of clients with whom to grow.”

Lighthouse is still shopping for a direct/ database marketing agency and a local-marketing/account-specific shop. But “we won’t just chase revenue,” Farrell says. “We’re chasing competency.”

Lighthouse will keep shopping for brand development and business communications businesses, too. Those divisions have no plans for restructuring under a common name.

Will Lighthouse lose out on the equity of the Davidson name? “People who might have considered calling Davidson next month might not call Communicator now,” Farrell concedes. “But existing clients see equity in our people, not our name. They’ll see the same people and same quality of work they always have. And `Communicator’ is a more fluent way to define what we do.”