Initiative Media North America C

NUMBERS D+

Billings, estimated revenue rose 13% to $7.1 billion and $228 million, respectively. Had twice the staff, only two-thirds the revenue of MindShare, the next-biggest shop in terms of employees. Much of boost from parent IPG’s first-quarter merger with The Botway Group, bringing $700 million in billings. Also added business from Campbell-Ewald, other sister IPG shops. Big gain at end of year: $100 million Sun Microsystems, won without competitive pitch. Lost $200 million in tech billings due to dot-com fallout. Also lost Unilever at year’s end, though numbers didn’t kick in.

MANAGEMENT C

Chairman Lou Schultz had what may have been the toughest job in the business: turning Western International Media’s dysfunctional patriarchy into modern media firm. By and large, he has accomplished that through moves including a name change, much-needed restructuring, executive recruitment and launch of a new training program. Cost was plummeting morale, endless rumors about personnel changes. Inability to win in review combat hurt shop badly B;especially the stinging loss of the Unilever business, the major reason for Botway merger in the first place.

MEDIA PLANNING C

Never Initiative’s strong suit. Agency moved to improve planning function and began to sell itself on its brains rather than its brawn, launching agency-partner division Initiative Partners with strategy-oriented positioning.

MEDIA BUYING B+

World’s first independent media agency (Western opened its doors in 1970) is still the king of spot buying in its modern form, with well-regarded Kathy Crawford presiding over a $2 billion local broadcast operation. National broadcast chief Tim Spengler was a Mediaweek all-star in 2000.

COMMENTS

An uncertain time. Consequences of IPG’s pending True North acquisition have yet to become clear. President and COO Mike Lotito left in early 2001, replaced by Western region head Carolyn Bivens. Schultz continues to innovate organizationally, splitting the network into “traditional media” run by Bivens and a “relationship marketing” operation called IM121, run by former East region leader Jim Bell. But Initiative really needs to start winning more reviews.