Sun Win Sparks Account Swap

Initiative Media North America being named global media agency for the $100 million-plus Sun Microsystems account last week has also benefited Lowe Lintas & Partners. To avoid a conflict, an estimated $40-50 million in Dell Computer buying duties that were handled by Initiative have moved to sister Interpublic shop Lowe Lintas. Both accounts will be handled by the agencies’ New York offices.

Executives from The Lowe Group and Interpublic helped engineer the shuffle, which takes some of the sting out of Lowe Lintas’ loss of Sun creative and media duties to the team of J. Walter Thompson and Tonic 360 last year. The victory is especially sweet for Initiative, which endured a disappointing loss late in 2000 when longtime client Unilever consolidated media at MindShare. Initiative has handled Sun’s media business outside the U.S. since 1998.

“We had to say the only way we could do this is if we could make this work for Dell, too,” said Lou Schultz, Initiative Media Worldwide chairman and CEO. “We were able to accommodate both, and that was great.”

The Dell buying duties are for the retail account, for which Lowe Lintas already handles creative duties.

“Initiative has been doing an awesome job for us,” said Karen Becker, Sun director of global advertising and sponsorship. “When we resigned Lowe, we had to go into review. Initiative was able to showcase how they could apply the same smart thinking to our U.S. account.”

The handoffs began after the JWT/Tonic 360 victory last November. WPP media network MindShare, which would have taken on media responsibilities, faced a conflict: Another WPP sister, Ogilvy & Mather, is IBM’s agency.

Sun turned to Initiative to pitch its U.S. business in competition with WPP’s second media network, The Media Edge, said Becker.

As a result of the new business, Initiative’s Laurence Patry, international account director on Sun, will relocate to New York from Paris, joining Larry Orell, general manager of Initiative New York, who will supervise the U.S. business.