Six Flags Shops Its $50 Mil.-Plus Media Business

Six Flags Operations has launched a review for its U.S. media buying and international media buying and planning business, totaling an estimated $50 million-plus in bill ings, sources said.

The theme-park marketer’s creative agency, Ackerman McQueen in Oklahoma City, is handling the review.

RFPs have been sent to several undisclosed media agencies. Incumbent Initiative Partners, which has worked with Ackerman on the account for eight years and is owned by Interpublic Group’s Los Angeles-based Initiative Media, is participating, sources said. The RFPs are due back by the end of this month, with a decision in October.

Initiative handles most U.S. and international media, although in dividual parks in other countries have worked with various local media resources. Initiative primarily does spot broadcast buying, where Six Flags spends the vast majority of its ad dollars. Ackerman also handles a portion of Six Flags’ U.S. media account.

The Oklahoma City-based advertiser is looking at its media resources as part of an overall reassessment of its vendor relationships, sources said.

“Like every travel-related com pany, this has not been a good year for Six Flags,” said one agency executive. “They want to make sure they are getting the best value in every significant area where they spend money. They’re going to every vendor they have—roller-coaster suppliers, popcorn suppliers, etc.”

Six Flags, with 39 parks worldwide, has suffered from the nationwide travel slump. In August, the company reported attendance for second-quarter 2002 was down 11 percent, compared to the same period last year, with second-quarter 2002 revenue of $348 million, compared to $357 million for last year’s second quarter. The news spurred analysts to downgrade their ratings and sent Six Flags shares to a 52-week low of less than $5, where they have remained.

A client representative declined comment. Ackerman executives were unavailable.