Opening Up The Gates

Reaction was encouraging to last week’s official launch of the Big Three agency holding companies’ initiative to create a standard media buying protocol.

The new company [Adweek, March 26, 2001] seeks participation from other media networks, either by offering them a stake in the new venture or through some other affiliation. Bcom3 has already expressed a desire to participate, sources said, and others also are interested.

“We are going to sit down and find out in detail what their plans are,” said Rich Hamilton, U.S. CEO of Zenith Media. “We’re open to talking to them about possibilities.”

“If the project is focused on the back-room operation of media agencies … to clean it up and bring it into this century, I’m all for it,” added Steve Farella, Media Planning CEO.

Whatever allies Omnicom, WPP Group and The Interpublic Group of Cos. attract in their drive to eliminate back-office chaos, it will take at least 18 months to two years. That is how long Mike Lotito, the new venture’s CEO and the former president and COO of Initiative Media North America, estimated it will take to develop software and convince media buyers and sellers to get on board.

Lotito expects to hire up to 10 staffers by the end of the company’s first year. Hired as the firm’s first CFO is Neil Shaffer, who joins from defunct dot-com iPrivacy. A chief technology officer will eventually join the new offices in New York as well.

And perhaps the most difficult task of all is what to call the new entity. “Every name that I get at which is suggestive of what the company does is owned,” said Lotito.