Larry Lamattina. It’s the sort of name you have high hopes for. It
says someone, it says showbiz, though perhaps faded matinee idol rather
than Hollywood hunk.
It’s a name to conjure with. Which is a start, because profile writing
ain’t easy when all you’ve got to go on is a black-and-white picture and
a transatlantic telephone call. Particularly if your subject’s American,
where a ’top-flight professional’ all too often means courteous,
diplomatic and, frankly, a little bland.
From his photograph, however, Lamattina looks a little less like a movie
star and more like a smooth professional about to take up the reins of
one of the world’s biggest media networks. Which, as the first chairman
of the new Western: Initiative Media Worldwide, is exactly what he
Mind you, our Lamattina does lay claim to a sprinkling of celebrity
He is, after all, the man who brought you Wheel of Fortune and the
Euro-soap, Riviera (he used to run Interpublic Group’s TV company, EC
WIM is a little more real life, the merger of two IPG media giants:
Western International Media, whose stronghold is in the US, and
Initiative Media, a European powerhouse with offices around the world
except for the States.
The reasons behind the merger are pretty obvious. There was really no
point in Initiative trying to crack the US market when Western was
already the biggest media specialist, while Western has only a handful
of operations elsewhere. Meanwhile, clients are aligning their marketing
on international lines, media owners are consolidating and the race is
on to make the top five before the gates close.
Lamattina sees it as the perfect marriage. ’Our rivals are trying to put
together global networks, but most are still patchy. We have a lead
because we’re up and running with a great geographical spread and two
companies which share a common culture and complementary knowledge. Both
companies are dealing with the same issues such as fragmentation, return
on investment and accountability.’
And the importance of WIM’s position as an IPG company, rather than a
joint venture between Ammirati Puris Lintas (Initiative’s sister
creative agency) and the Lowe Group (Western’s parent), cannot be
As Lamattina admits: ’To provide the best media service we have to be
wholly focused on media and media alone.’
Still, APL in the US is dragging its heels about handing its media
planning and buying to the new venture. No sweat, says Lamattina. ’We
start from day one with dollars 10 billion billings, so this is not
contingent with us bringing in business from our sister agencies.’
For clients of the two media companies, the merger won’t bring immediate
changes beyond the ability to tap into a single global network.
But over the next year, Lamattina promises a dollars 16 million
investment in research and systems. ’Before, a similar sum of money
would be shared between the two companies and there would have been a
degree of duplication.
Now, one and one will equal three.’ Savings from shared back office
resource or pooled TV buying will mean more money for proprietary
research and systems and a fresh focus on accountability and the return
on clients’ money.
And there are opportunities to go beyond media planning and buying.
Western in the US has businesses in new media, recruitment, Yellow
Pages, incentives, TV production and distribution, sponsorship and
All ripe, Lamattina says, for exportation.
Such proclamations from other agencies would be easy to shrug off. But
with WIM the mighty IPG is finally marshalling its media muscle and
rivals would do well to take note. What’s more, Lamattina does know a
thing or two about media. He started out as a media trainee at Benton
and Bowles, became a media chief at both Grey and Lintas and then the
chief operating officer of Lintas New York.
Back at B&B when he started out, Lamattina was paid dollars 125 a week
and media was where the guys wore the green eye shades of the money men.
’I’ve seen a lot of changes since then,’ he muses. ’Now media has come
to the forefront.
THE LAMATTINA FILE
1969: Benton and Bowles, media trainee
1971: Scali McCabe Sloves, media manager
1972: Grey Advertising, executive vice-president, director of media
1981: Lintas New York, executive vice-president of media
1985: Lintas New York, chief operating officer
1988: LintasWorldwide, board member with responsibility for media
1989: EC Television, chief executive
1994: All American Television, president/chief executive
1998: Western Initiative Media, chairman/chief executive.