How Initiative secured PSA’s pounds 90m

Two years ago this week, Phil Georgiadis took over as the chief executive of Initiative Media - the UK’s fifth-largest media buying company at that time.

Two years ago this week, Phil Georgiadis took over as the chief

executive of Initiative Media - the UK’s fifth-largest media buying

company at that time.

By the end of last year, Initiative had slipped to eighth place in the

rankings and was still perceived as a one-client shop, with Unilever

continuing to dominate its pounds 226 million client list.

To critics, Initiative was a lumbering giant, top heavy with Unilever’s

stodgy fmcg brands and precluded from running with the planning ball by

the fact that its sister agency, Ammirati Puris Lintas, insisted on

retaining its own media planning credentials.

Initiative’s triumph in the pounds 90 million PSA Peugeot-Citroen media

pitch this week is testament to all the behind-the-scenes changes made

by Georgiadis to turn the tanker around. It is, without doubt, the most

important media win of the year so far - as well as the most significant


Though Georgiadis refuses to crow about his hard-won and long-awaited

success, the hiring of names such as Ita Murphy as a media director, the

creation of the Innovations Centre and last month’s launch of Go Figure,

the marketing communications consultancy, can all be seen to have

contributed to PSA’s decision to move its account.

Then there’s the business of buying media. Speculation has centred on

Mediapolis’s performance on PSA’s TV buying. Mediapolis is highly

regarded for its press buying but, according to one TV sales chief, the

media shop’s TV buying for the company was not as impressive.

Others claim Initiative has promised to deliver PSA a car media schedule

at fmcg prices, is offering fixed prices on its TV deals and that, since

the pitch was led by PSA’s purchasing department, strategic thinking

would not have been the decisive issue.

But the win is more important for Initiative than even an injection of

billings as high as pounds 90 million might suggest. It can no longer be

seen as a one-client shop with a poor new-business record.

For Mediapolis and its chief executive, Bob Offen, the loss also goes

beyond the pounds 90 million billings and the reputed pounds 2 million

of income.

PSA is the fourth-largest spender in the UK and the account is the

second-largest piece of centralised media business. Given the size of

the account, Mediapolis was PSA and, with regard to the longer-standing

Citroen client in particular, the account had an emotional hold.

The timing of the loss, as Mediapolis prepares to bring on board the

WCRS media department, could not have been worse. However, the addition

of the WCRS billings (pounds 76 million in 1996) means Mediapolis will

at least retain its top-ten status.

The loss creates a clean slate for Mediapolis and could be the spur the

company needs to step up its marketing effort and find a forward-looking

position in the industry.

Initiative client list

Top six accounts                Spend pounds m

Unilever                                 196.0

PSA                                       90.0

Ferrero                                    7.9

Compaq                                     7.2

P&O Cruises                                4.7

Rimmel                                     2.1

Sub total                                307.9

Total billings                           316.9

Unilever includes Birds Eye Wall’s, Calvin Klein, Elida Faberge, 

Elizabeth Arden, Lever Brothers, Van den Bergh, Unipath.

Mediapolis client list

Top six accounts                Spend pounds m

Orange                                    21.7

Colgate Palmolive                         14.3

Thorn EMI                                 12.7

UIP                                       12.2

Lunn Poly                                  8.4

Scottish Widows                            7.8

Sub total                                 77.1

Total billings                           228.7

Orange, Thorn EMI and Lunn Poly arrive this month with the WCRS media 

department. Other clients are Microsoft and Intel.

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