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
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
P&O Cruises 4.7
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
Colgate Palmolive 14.3
Thorn EMI 12.7
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.