Hotlines 2: Late-Breaking News

Fortis Picks Grey to Handle $200 Mil. Global Creative

BOSTON Global financial services company Fortis has appointed WPP’s Grey as its lead creative agency, the shop said last week. Fortis’ estimated annual global ad spending is $200 million, sources said. This marks the first time that Fortis has consolidated its advertising at one network. Grey did not previously work for the client. Grey’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operation in London will serve as lead office on the business. Grey won the account following a six-month competition in which other contenders could not be determined. Previously, the work had been split among numerous shops. Fortis’ overall brand positioning and creative for its insurance and retail and merchant/private banking businesses will now be led by Grey.

IPG Buys Branded Entertainment Consultancy

NEW YORK IPG last week acquired Translation Consultation + Brand Imaging, a three-year-old shop led by former Interscope Records honcho Steve Stoute. IPG is believed to have paid $10-15 million in cash for the New York consultancy. Translation has estimated revenue of $5-10 million and employs about 45 staffers, said sources. The deal, which had been expected [Adweek, July 16], gives IPG a branded entertainment specialist that shares a major client in General Motors and has ties to the music industry and urban culture. Translation, meanwhile, gains access to IPG’s roster of clients, with an opportunity to expand its operation. Translation will operate as a standalone unit and continue to be led by Stoute, the company’s founder and chief creative officer, said IPG, which declined to discuss terms of the deal.

TargetCast Wins Media Portion Of $60 Mil. Account

NEW YORK Independent TargetCast has been selected by to handle media chores on the client’s estimated $60 million ad account, said sources. TargetCast competed against Horizon here, also an independent, and Publicis’ Optimedia in Seattle. Meanwhile, the contenders in a parallel creative review are slated to present this week at headquarters in Dallas. Competing for creative are Publicis’ Saatchi & Saatchi here, WPP’s Young & Rubicam in Chicago and Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day here, said sources. Agency and client representatives either could not immediately be reached or declined comment. Independent Doner in Southfield, Mich., the incumbent on both media and creative, did not defend.

Finalists Emerge in Mike’s Hard Lemonade Account Review

NEW YORK Mike’s Hard Lemonade has briefed four finalists in the review of the company’s estimated $20 million ad account. The agencies, which sources identified as independents Amalgamated and Droga5, both in New York, WPP’s Cole + Weber United in Seattle and IPG’s Mullen in Wenham, Mass., emerged last week from a field of seven shops. Not advancing: IPG’s Deutsch in New York and independents Modernista! in Boston and 72 and Sunny in El Segundo, Calif., said sources. Both creative and media duties—now at, respctively, independent We Are Gigantic here and MDC’s The Media Kitchen, both in New York—are in play. Final presentations are slated for the first week of December. Ark Advisors in New York is managing the process. Ark and the Seattle-based client did not return calls.

Havas’ 9.3% Growth Outpaces Publicis’ 4.6% in Third Quarter

BOSTON Havas last week reported a 9.3 percent rise in third-quarter organic revenue to $530 million, upstaging its acquisitive rival Publicis Groupe, which reported a 4.6 percent Q3 revenue boost to $1.61 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. Organic growth excludes currency fluctuations and the impact of acquisitions. The numbers continue a reversal of recent trends for the Paris-based holding companies. Havas has, for the most part, endured mediocre financial performances in recent years, while Publicis’ numbers—and its agency acquisitions worldwide, made largely to bolster its digital operations—have been generally more impressive.

NBC Universal Takes a Stake In Text-Messaging Firm

NEW YORK NBC Universal has finalized an agreement with text-messaging company 4INFO that enables the media giant for the first time to place ads and provide additional content across its portfolio of TV, film and online properties via mobile SMS technology. As part of the agreement, sources said, NBCU will take a minority stake in 4INFO, investing approximately $10 million through Peacock Equity, a joint venture owned by the media company and parent General Electric’s GE Commercial Finance. (Neither party would confirm the exact amount of the investment.) 4INFO will use the cash infusion to expand its nationwide sales force.

Horizon Makeover Emphasizes Lasting Client Relationships

NEW YORK Horizon Media has unveiled a new marketplace positioning statement, along with a new logo and updated Web site. It’s the first branding and image revamp for the independent media shop in 10 years, said founder and CEO Bill Koenigsberg. The new “Business is personal” replaces the outgoing “Marketing-driven media services company” tagline. The switch in part plays off Horizon’s track record of retaining numerous clients for a decade or more. NBC Universal, for example, has been a client for 18 years, through five reviews. Insurance company Geico has been a client for 14 years, and the Foxwoods casino has been on the roster for 10 years.

Social Networking Site Bebo Preps Online Reality Series

NEW YORK Global social networking site Bebo, in conjunction with television producer Endemol U.K., is launching an interactive online reality series, The Gap Year, focused on travel. Six men and women will be chosen from the Bebo site to represent the U.K., Ireland, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Video auditions will run on Bebo in December, and users will have input in selecting the participants. They will also have input on the journeys the contestants take. The weekly show will be filmed next year.

Purina and Limbo To Send Pet Lovers Daily Messages

NEW YORK Nestlé Purina Petcare Co. has partnered with mobile entertainment company Limbo to sponsor daily, free text message alerts for pet lovers. The ad-supported service, Limbo Lowdown, allows Purina to access an SMS inventory that comprises more than 6 million monthly text messages to engage targeted demographics with SMS content on a daily basis.

Leo Burnett Adds $20 Mil. Caesars Account After Review

BOSTON Leo Burnett last week added the Caesars casino resort brand to its roster following a review. Caesars, a unit of Harrah’s Entertainment, spent slightly more than $20 million in domestic measured media last year and about $15 million on ads through the first eight months of 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Advertising for the flagship Caesars Palace in Las Vegas had been handled by hometown shop R&R Partners; work for Caesars in Atlantic City, N.J., was managed in-house. Burnett will now promote both locations and also support the client’s anticipated expansion in Spain and the Bahamas. Chicago-based Burnett, a unit of Publicis, said it competed against five other undisclosed contenders to add Caesars.