Zenith Media B+

NUMBERS B+

Billings and estimated revenue were up 43% to $4 billion and $128 million, respectively. Wins in Verizon, AstraZeneca and ExxonMobil reviews totaled more than $500 million. No significant U.S. losses.

MANAGEMENT A

If he were a pitcher, Zenith USA leader Rich Hamilton would have thrown a one-hit shutout in 2000. Hamilton another alumnus of the former Benton & Bowles media department to reach the top of the media-agency business has a low-key, community-building style, an extensive network of client-side contacts and an unwavering desire for new business that have elevated the media network of Cordiant Communications’ U.S. operation from the shop nobody respected to one nobody wants to face. Unlike most of the top 10, which are descendants of media departments, the majority of Zenith’s business in the U.S. involves direct assignments from clients with no relationship to its Cordiant or Publicis sister shops.

MEDIA PLANNING B

Agency continues to make good use of its research depth, both in the U.S. and abroad. Competitors in reviews in which Zenith was defending say the clients frequently cited their satisfaction with the incumbent. The agency’s thinking ability is usually a big reason why.

MEDIA BUYING B

With a flagship client like Toyota, Zenith would command sellers’ respect in any case. At $4 billion in U.S. billings, it has solidified its top-buyer credentials.

COMMENTS

Zenith entered the U.S. six years ago essentially as the media-buying arm of Saatchi Saatchi and Bates, a subordinate role that tarred the agency with a second-tier positioning. It was the business model no media shop wanted to emulate. Now, it is one of the most successful media-agency brands in the country;and it has kept the heat on in 2001, adding almost $400 million in new billings in the first quarter alone. The questions have to be: How high can Hamilton take this shop? And how long will the hot streak last?