A Look Back at 1999

West Coast agencies must feel like the treadmill has been cranked up to “High” since the start of 1999. In a world where there’s not enough media time or space available to buy, clients are begging for attention, and $8 million in billings seems like chump change.
The flood Begins
The flood of Web sites flush with venture capital and looking to build their brands hit the Bay Area first and hardest, but quickly spread out geographically during the year.
Some examples:
–Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ E*Trade account was worth $100 million in 1999, double its 1998 budget, and should continue to grow.
–The budget of Foote, Cone & Belding client Amazon.com was tiny in the first half of the year, but bulged to an estimated $50 million for the fourth quarter alone.
–Cnet put aside a $100 million budget, outgrew its agency, Citron Haligman Bedecarrƒ, siphoning off TV to Leagas Delaney.
the Ripple Effect
The hot economy and excitement generated by the Internet had a ripple effect for West Coast shops. Clients with real profits and traditional business models took advertising more seriously, particularly in the telecommunications and financial services segments. SBC’s Pacific Bell, for instance, grew to become Goodby’s biggest account, with billings well over $100 million. Publicis & Hal Riney client Sprint PCS boosted its budget from $78 million to more than $100 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Big technology brands were also motivated by the Net economy to join Apple and IBM in putting money and commitment behind corporate image work. Microsoft beefed up its branding budget and moved its ad business from Wieden & Kennedy to McCann-Erickson’s international network, prompting a somewhat rocky merger of McCann and Microsoft’s interactive shop, Anderson & Lembke. Hewlett-Packard’s new leadership initiated a $200 million global image campaign handled jointly by Goodby and Saatchi & Saatchi in a rather uneasy alliance.
the client factor
In the meantime, big lifestyle brands kept tongues wagging, while not exactly pouring money into the bank. TBWA/Chiat/Day continued to struggle with the relatively modest $60 million Levi’s account. The creative reins were passed from Peter Angelos to Chuck McBride as the client’s new CEO, Philip Marineau, rearranged his marketing team. In a cost-cutting mood, Nike trimmed billings with Goodby and then moved the agency’s whole assignment back to Wieden. Longtime American Honda shop Rubin Postaer and Associates found that perseverance and loyalty do pay off, picking up the Japanese automaker’s $125 million Acura luxury brand.
Media Madness
No agency in the West experienced more turbulence in 1999 than Western Initiative Media. Its L.A. headquarters was racked by a series of explosive personnel departures, none more incendiary than the sudden and acrimonious departure of president Michael Kassan. Kassan subsequently sued Western parent Interpublic Group for more than $60 million, eventually settling out of court.
Founder and chairman Dennis Holt voluntarily relinquished his CEO title, and veteran media executive Lou Schultz was brought in from IPG agency Campbell-Ewald in Detroit to be Western’s top man in the U.S. –with Jack Feuer and Angela Dawso