Equity Firm Buys Stake in AKQA With Plans for Web Holding Co.

NEW YORK Private equity firm General Atlantic last week bought a majority stake of independent AKQA from Francisco Partners, another private equity firm. The deal keeps the shop from joining WPP, which had held talks to buy it. Instead, AKQA, which sources said had been on the market for $250 million, will form the basis of a new online ad holding company bankrolled by General Atlantic, per sources, in the model of Avenue A/Razorfish parent company aQuantive (a related story on page 10 went to press before the AKQA deal was announced). Anton Levy, a managing director at the firm who leads its deals in the space, has held talks with several online advertising technology and marketing companies, advised by former Omnicom exec and TBWA Worldwide CEO Michael Greenlees. Possible future targets, per sources, include X+1, which helps advertisers better target their ads based on Internet users’ prior behavior.

Turner Apologizes to Boston For Marketing Stunt Gone Awry

NEW YORK Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, placed an ad in Boston newspapers on Friday apologizing for a Cartoon Network guerrilla marketing campaign that led to a terrorism scare in Boston earlier in the week. The ad apologized “for the confusion and inconvenience caused in your community on Wednesday by an unconventional marketing tactic. We never intended this outcome and certainly did not set out to perpetrate a hoax.” Magnetic boards featuring characters from the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force attached to bridges and roadways around the city had been mistaken for explosive devices, causing major traffic disruptions. Reuters reported Friday that Turner would pay all costs associated with the security scare, placing the figure at $1 million. Both Turner and the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General declined to confirm those reports by press time. “We are in discussions with the city, but there is nothing to report now,” said a Turner rep. Two freelancers hired by New York-based Interference to distribute the boards pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct.

GM Shifts $200 Mil. Saturn Biz From Goodby to Deutsch/LA

LOS ANGELES General Motors moved the creative portion of its estimated $200 million Saturn account from Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, to IPG’s Deutsch/LA without a review last week, as first reported by The IPG agency now owns three pieces of GM business, including a corporate reputation account it won late last year. Sources said the client had become increasingly disenchanted with the Saturn work by Goodby, which had the account since 2002. The first Deutsch/LA work, for the Saturn Aura, breaks during the Academy Awards telecast Feb. 25. See related story, p. 6

Havas Reports $1.9 Bil. Revenue For 2006; Flat From 2005

BOSTON Havas last week reported full-year 2006 revenue of $1.9 billion, essentially flat compared with the previous 12-month period. In organic growth terms, factoring out fluctuations in exchange rates and consolidation factors, the performance was likewise flat. The company trumpeted “real growth in annual revenue” for the first time in five years, though that growth was 1 percent or less, regardless of the method of calculation. A weak U.S. dollar in the fourth quarter was largely to blame for a late-year loss of momentum, according to a statement from the Paris-based holding company, which owns the Arnold, Euro RSCG and MPG agency networks.

News Roundup

NEW YORK WPP’s Berlin Cameron United won creative duties for Glaceau Vitamin Water after a review. The client spent just under $10 million last year in U.S. media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. … BBDO confirmed last week that it laid off about 3 percent of its New York office. Sources said the number of staffers let go equaled 20. An agency rep added that the reductions were a result of the Omnicom shop’s first-quarter evaluation of its staffing needs as well as “changes going on in the industry and the increased demands of clients.”