The latest casualty is Bertram Metter, the 59-year-old chairman and chief executive of J. Walter Thompson USA, who resigned from the agency late last week following a falling out with Johnston.
"It reminds me of a game of musical chairs," said Joseph W. O'Donnell, the former hand-picked chairman of J. Walter Thompson Co., who was fired in January following charges that he was trying to gain early control of the company. "But in this game, when the music starts, Don never leaves his seat."
Johnston will be on the hot seat for the next few weeks. As chairman of JWT Group, the ad agency's parent company, he will have to explain dismal first-quarter results that the company is expected to release this week. (He declined to be interviewed by The Times.)
"It's going to be a really terrible first quarter," projected Victoria A. Butcher, analyst at the New York securities firm Eberstadt Fleming Inc. "It's possible that they could even lose money."
None of the other major publicly held advertising conglomerates are expected to post operational losses for the quarter, she said. If the firm's financial picture doesn't improve by the end of the year, she said, "Johnston could be ousted."
Just where stockholder sentiment lies may be better known one week from today at the company's annual meeting in New York. It will be followed by a board meeting that could be heated. "Eventually," said Butcher, "this is all going to be a great book . . . or perhaps a TV mini-series."
Perhaps the so-called baby boom generation is already becoming a marketing bust. After months of planning, the Chicago-based American Marketing Assn., last week was forced to cancel a planned two-day convention, "Boomer Consumers." Reason: Only 15 executives registered. Said an AMA spokesman: "We had more inquiries from the press than from executives."
Checkup for Mom
For Mother's Day, you can spend $65 and send Mom eight pounds of candy, a couple of dozen roses--or a mammogram. A mammogram? Actually, mammograms will be called "Mom-o-Grams" for the next few weeks at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. In a bid to market its mammogram service--a breast X-ray to detect tumors--the hospital is selling $65 certificates that remind the recipient: "Because Happy Mother's Day is worth repeating."