Initiative's success in recent pitches is morethan just luck

A couple of years ago, Initiative London put out a little promotional film to support its new "expect more" positioning. It featured agency staff doing their stuff to the tune of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

Jerry Hill, the chief executive of the agency and, for the duration of the film at least, Initiative's very own Mr Fahrenheit, concluded the performance by belting out the "expect more" line. Not as cringeworthy perhaps as MindShare Amsterdam's viral featuring staff butchering the Donna Summer song She Works Hard for the Money, but still pretty close to the boundaries of taste and decency.

Fast-forward to summer 2006: with Don't Stop Me Now appropriately riding high in the charts again thanks to McFly's cover version, Initiative's European management are closer to having a good time than at any moment since it lost Unilever in late 2004.

Last week's capture of the Burger King media planning and buying account across six markets, worth an estimated £50 million, followed hot on the heels of smaller pan- European wins in the shape of Bang & Olufsen and Fujitsu Siemens. None of these are exactly on the scale of some of the mega-global reviews of recent years, but they are good solid wins given the recent paucity of large-scale international pitch action.

To beat Carat and MindShare is no mean feat, especially given the current speculation over the parent company Interpublic and a possible bid in light of its declining share price. But has Initiative done anything proactive to bring in these accounts or just got lucky in the game of pitch roulette?

I'd say two things in its favour: first, its simplified European management structure under the joint chief operating offiers Hill and Dirk Wiedenmann seems to be more effective than the one that preceded it.

Second, the agency's attempt to focus more on digital in a repositioning last year appears to be paying dividends given Burger King's reference to Initiative's expertise "in the area of digital marketing".

So while it might be a bit much to use Freddie Mercury's words to describe Initiative as a "tiger defying the laws of gravity", it is at least now slightly airborne.

It will be interesting to see if Carat in the UK can remain so. After a strong year so far, the loss of Burger King is its only real blip to date. With reviews of its Danone and Royal Mail accounts coming up, it will be a vital autumn for the Aegis agency. But given that Danone has moved increasing amounts of planning business over to Carat in the past year or so, and that Royal Mail retained the agency at the last pitch, it seems that the agency has a fighting chance of retaining both pieces of business.

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