Getting Back to Basics, Gateway Selects Initiative

New YORK—A little history may have gone a long way toward deciding Gateway’s estimated $250 million media buying and planning review in favor of Initiative Media last week.

Initiative, Los Angeles, prevailed after a two-month search that included several national media agencies, including New York shops Media Planning and incumbent Universal McCann. The company has decided to keep creative in-house.

“We are extremely pleased to continue building our business with a marquee name like Gateway,” said Carolyn Bivens, Initiative’s president and COO. “We’ll be starting the transition next week.”

Randy Bixler, Initiative’s director of client services, was a key player in the contest and is expected to run the business from San Diego, where Gateway is based, sources said. Bivens declined to comment on who the other team members would be.

Landing Gateway is as much a reunion as a new-account win for the Interpublic Group of Cos. media network. Initiative’s predecessor, Western International Media, was the computer maker’s first media buyer in the ’90s.

The move to Initiative appears to be rooted in the company’s attempts to get “back to basics,” said Toni Duboise, a PC analyst with ARS, a research company in La Jolla, Calif.

In January, the company welcomed back its founder, Ted Waitt, as CEO. And last month it announced it was closing 27 of its 326 U.S. stores and looking to scale back plans to market Web-related appliances. Instead, it will concentrate on its core business of selling desktop PCs.

“One of the main objectives Gateway is focusing on right now is how to cut spending, and among the areas they’re especially trying to constrain is ad dollars,” Duboise said.

According to Competitive Media Reporting, Gateway spent $296 million on measured media in 2000, with 39 percent ($116 million) of that going to national TV; 25 percent to local newspapers; 5 percent to national papers; and 1.3 percent to spot TV.

Both Initiative and Gateway declined to discuss the media mix.

Bivens did note that the win will not herald any noteworthy changes within Initiative, such as new hires. “Our staffing level is perfectly suited to handle this business,” she said.