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WestWayne Kicks Off Search for Media Partner

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WestWayne, the South east's largest independent shop, has issued an RFP seeking "a preferred media buyer."

"We sent the RFP out to a couple of planning and buying services to get a sense of their capabilities and willingness to work with us," said president Jeff Johnson. "Periodically, we have media opportunities from national clients that make sense for us to partner with someone else."

The shop, based in Atlanta, re ported billings of more than $360 million last year.

The majority of WestWayne's regional print and spot TV buys are handled out of Tampa, Fla., by executive media director Lisa Duncan and her staff at WestWayne's Miami and Atlanta offices.

WestWayne handles national media buying for clients such as Denny's (which spent $60 million on media in 2000), Celebrity Cruise Lines ($23 million), Florida's Natural ($13 million) and Port Authority ($15 million). Those accounts are likely to be involved.

RFPs are due back at the end of this week; a decision is due in October.

The list of possible contenders is limited, given the national and international buying parameters and the fact that only a few top shops regularly work with unaffiliated agencies. They include IPG's Initiative Media, an incumbent partner of WestWayne that has worked with the agency on national buys for Lakeland, Fla.-based Florida's Natural, among others, for the past five years; Carat, which also has a sizable Atlanta office; and Horizon Media, which recently opened a Southeast outpost.

Agencies such as WPP's MindShare and IPG's Universal McCann also have Atlanta offices but do not generally work with nonsister shops. The move clearly caught executives at Initiative's Atlanta satellite by surprise. "This is the first I've heard of it," said Initiative general man ager Richard Simms. "We do have an arrangement, but it's not across all accounts and business."

Johnson insisted that his shop's $70 million Southeast Toyota Distributors business would not be outsourced. "That's all local spots," he said. "We do a great job of it."