Interpublic, in common with many multi-national, multi-network agency operations, has media networks that have developed through historical trial and error. There is no single Interpublic attitude to media across all markets.
Perhaps the best branded and most discrete of IPG’s media operations is Initiative Media. It was set up in 1972 to service the European media needs of the Lintas network and has grown into one of the continent’s biggest operations with claimed billings of around $2.9bn (1.8bn).
The brand continues to roll out, with offices now in Indonesia, Canada and, imminently, India.
Its relative longevity has produced a single Initiative Media brand name in 15 major European markets. The single parent, Lintas, and the unified branding stands out among pan-European media networks where disparate ownership, affiliations and names is the norm.
One grey area is Initiative’s relationship with those Lintas media departments across Europe which handle some media buying and planning themselves. Recent reports suggest that Lintas’ in-house media department are to be closed down.
On the client front, Initiative is both supported by and dependent upon its massive Unilever client, which accounts for some 35 to 40 per cent of billings.
The London office hired Phil Georgardis in the summer from WCRS as chief executive with a brief to energise the dependant’s new business credentials and bring in more non-Unilever billings. This effort was hampered by the London office losing its largest non-Unilever client, Johnson & Johnson, within weeks of Georgardis’ appointment.
Where Initiative is a strong media brand, The Lowe Group’s media operations are more classically diverse across Europe.
Until October of this year, Lowe had been involved with IPG’s McCann’s network in the Universal Media. The creation of Universal, while making sense on paper to IPG’s senior management, suffered from the problems of coping with different cultures.
McCann-Erickson is a classic large American network, following in the tracks of its multinational clients. Lowe, on the other hand, is more of a hotch-potch of alliances, full ownership or partnerships. In the UK, the Lowe Group media reputation is based on planning rather than just buying, but that model is not followed across Europe.
The rationale for Universal – that you need a certain volume of billings to be able to compete – is felt by Lowe to have disappeared after the Loi Sapin in France outlawed the sur commissions that made volume billings matter.
In October, the Lowe Group effectively tolled the death knell of Universal across all of Europe by linking up with CIA Medianetwork International in Italy and Thomas Koch Media in Germany. Now the network will work in different markets either as a full-service agency with Universal or with other media independents.
McCann’s reputation as a dull agency has rubbed off on its media department. Yet its tough-cookie London media director Trista Grant, has had a good year. She picked up the $70m (45m) Scott paper centralised media buying across Europe and Sega’s media in February. The UK media department now has 80m of third party billings out of a total of 190m UK billings.
However, its year has been clouded by persistent reports that Coke is planning a review of its pan-European media arrangements in the new year. A number of the media operations of agencies which have moved onto Coke’s creative roster this year, including Publicis and Leo Burnett, are known to be chasing the media hard.
The fourth IPG media operation was the US number one media independent, Western International Media, until IPG bought it for $50m in October last year. Western is a giant, with billings of about $1.7bn and a dominant position in the US airtime market.
IPG is keeping Western separate from the rest of its media networks and has no plans to integrate it, because of potential client conflicts.