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DDB Has Universal Appeal

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$50 Mil. in Media Billings Move to L.A. Agency from Focus
LOS ANGELES--'Tis the season to move media billings at Universal Studios.
The movie studio has assigned roster shop DDB its spot broadcast buying business, estimated to be worth $50 million-plus in billings.
With the pre-holiday gift, DDB's Los Angeles outpost now controls most of the entertainment behemoth's media planning and buying, estimated at more than $200 million with the latest win.
Media management firm Focus Media, Santa Monica, Calif., was the incumbent on the spot business.
Both shops have fairly long relationships with Universal. In late 1997, the Seagram subsidiary awarded DDB its media planning and network business and bestowed local broadcast buying on Focus.
DDB Needham Los Angeles president Dave Park declined to comment on the move, and Focus president Tom Rubin would only say that "our business demands total confidentiality. But when you've handled an account for 12 years, as we have Universal, there are always changes."
Sources said the decision to move spot buying was a sign of the times and reflects the client's interest in consolidating its media, rather than any specific issues with either shop.
"When a company is in a transition period, it's not surprising that consolidation takes place," said a Universal marketing executive, who confirmed the move but requested anonymity. "There are obvious strategic as well as economic efficiencies in centralized planning and buying."
Consolidation has been very good to DDB Los Angeles this year, having gained close to $100 million in billings in just six months. Last May, DDB Needham Los Angeles won a shoot-out with Minneapolis' Carmichael Lynch after Norwest Banks, a Carmichael client, merged with DDB account Wells Fargo & Co.