As I wait at RDU airport in Raleigh, NC to get to Vegas for PubCon (a lot more from me this week on that), I was reading the, surprise, Wall Street Journal. It appears that interactive agencies are now really in the big time because today’s news isn’t about search marketing or interactive ingenuity by rivals iCrossing and Agency.com. No, it’s about a lawsuit. Congratulations interactive agencies, you have arrived. No longer do you sit on the fringes while people wonder what it is you do that other advertising agencies can’t (or maybe won’t) do. You are now in the business of having your dirty laundry aired for all of us to gawk at. Well struck!
Well, here’s what happened. Agency.com LLC is suing iCrossing because it took several top executives and a few big clients just happened to follow in one of those rare coincidences in business (wink, wink, nod, nod). The formal suit which was filed in Dallas alleges breach of contract, conspiring to misappropriate proprietary information and trade secrets and, this is the best one, tortuous interference. What the heck are these folks doing? Water boarding for clients?! I think they changed their address to Guantanamo Bay.
Anyway, the gist of this deal is as follows. Donald Scales is the CEO of iCrossing. Previously he was the CEO of Agency.com. When he jumped ships he apparently was tethered to some key Agency.com folks and may have overlooked little contractual details like non-solicitation of Agency.com employees during a certain time period. Bottom line is that Agency.com closed its Dallas office as a result and its Chicago office got hit hard too. This information came from depositions for Mr. Scales and several other iCrossing employees. Looks like Mr. Scales is pending some time under buses these days.
Then there’s the little detail of an Agency.com employee, Marlin Jackson, helping iCrossing get some business from Marriott / Ritz Carlton during the final month of his employment with Agency which he then left for, you guessed it, iCrossing.
First of all, if this is true then the ethics of the interactive agency world have reached Madison Avenue lows at a record pace. We know that in this day and age it’s harder and harder to find someone who will keep their word. We are all a little sick of promises these days and apparently with good reason since many have no intention of keeping them.
Interesting point for you search and interactive marketers out there is the following:
The suit exemplifies the concern in the ad business about a lack of digital-minded talent. The short of this expertise continues to be an issue for many agencies as they seek to retain ad dollars, which are increasingly moving from traditional advertising to digital media.
So get those resumes updated and sharpen the negotiating skills. Apparently they may need you more than you need them. That’s a nice position to be in these days. Oh and don’t let them off the hook. Make them pay for you. After all, there will most likely be lawsuits that need tending to!