Media Planning B-

NUMBERS A

Billings and estimated revenue up 127% to $3.4 billion and $143 million, respectively, mainly attributable to Havas network absorbing media operations of its U.S. agencies, including Jordan McGrath Case Partners Euro RSCG and Arnold. Added $140 million Reckitt Benckiser and $50 million ING Financial Services accounts. No significant losses.

MANAGEMENT C+

The French-owned media network’s consolidation of its sister shops’ media operations vaulted Media Planning into the top 10, ahead of No. 11 MediaCom. But Media Planning, which began the year as SFM Media, then became SFM/Media Planning and finally took its current name in early 2001, spent most of 2000 building a U.S. network under CEO Steve Farella. His European owners have ambitious plans for the U.S.; last year was all about laying the foundation. Both major wins came through parent-company or sister-shop connections.

MEDIA PLANNING C

Agency’s predecessor, SFM Media, was one of the first of the independent media buying companies to emerge in the 1970s, and its focus has consequently been on the buying end of the business. But as it incorporates the media departments of the Havas agencies, it figures to beef up its planning prowess. Ad agency veteran Farella is adept at talking up the “strategy before buying” positioning that the top-tier media specialists have all embraced lately.

MEDIA BUYING C

Highly regarded president of national broadcast Jerry Solomon, a 41-year veteran, left SFM Media in May. He was replaced by Ray Dundas, evp/director of national broadcast.

COMMENTS

The true test of Farella’s leadership will come in 2001, when his greatly expanded network in the U.S. will have to put its muscle where its money’s gone and compete against the top shops on its own.