MEDIA HEADLINER: Lamattina takes starring role in IPG play for media primacy - The ex-Lintas media chief now runs Western Initiative Media, Claire Beale writes

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.

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

is.



Mind you, our Lamattina does lay claim to a sprinkling of celebrity

stardust.



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

Television).



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

underestimated.



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

advertiser-supplied programming.



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.



It’s wonderful.’



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.



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