Initiative Withdraws From Disney Review

LOS ANGELES — Fifteen-year incumbent Initiative Media North America has withdrawn from the estimated $500 million-plus Walt Disney Co. review and the studio is expected to name Starcom as its new agency, sources said. Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Initiative, L.A.; Bcom3’s Starcom, Chicago; and Publicis and Cordiant-owned Zenith Media, New York, were the finalists.

Disney declined to comment on the status of its review beyond reaffirming that no decision has been reached. “When we have an announcement, we’ll let you know,” said a representative of the entertainment giant. However, the incumbent resigned the business yesterday and the client has decided to shift its business to Starcom, which handles media planning for the Disney theme parks.

All three of the contending shops declined to comment and referred calls to the client.

Initiative has watched revenue from its flagship account dwindle in the past three years and IPG CFO Sean Orr said last month that the business was now worth less than $10 million in revenue [Adweek, Nov. 19], a point at which sources contended the account could not be profitable.

The withdrawal ends one of the more glittering agency-client relationships in the U.S. Initiative’s predecessor, Western International Media, won the business in1986 on the strength of founder and native Angeleno Dennis Holt’s contacts with Disney executives in Hollywood. Western, the nation’s first independent media buying service, was until then a large but regional operation. With the Disney win, the agency instantly became a national player. It was purchased by Interpublic in 1994 and merged with Interpublic’s European network, Initative, in 1998.