Ammirati Puris Lintas

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Formed as Ammirati Puris AvRutick, a unit of Young & Rubicam, 1973; became independent of parent Y&R, 1977; sold to British holding company Boase, Massimi, Pollitt Partnership, 1987; sold to Omnicom, 1989; became independent again as Ammirati & Puris in a buyback, 1990; sold to Interpublic Group of Cos., 1994; merged with Lintas Worldwide and renamed Ammirati Puris Lintas, 1996; APL merged with Lowe Group to form Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, 1999; dropped the name Lintas to become Lowe & Partners, 2001.


Ammirati Puris Lintas was formed within Young & Rubicam in September 1973 as Ammirati Puris AvRutick, in an effort to avoid an anticipated client conflict within Y&R. Since the 1950s the agency had handled both the International Harvester heavy- and light-duty truck divisions as well as Chrysler Corp. Although IH's light-duty off-road vehicles approached an overlap with Chrysler's passenger cars, neither marketer regarded the other as competition. In 1973 Chrysler announced it would introduce the Trailblazer, an off-road, four-wheel-drive wagon that would compete directly with IH's Scout and Travelall marques.

In an effort to sidestep the conflict, Y&R creative chief Alex Kroll initiated talks in March 1973 with Ralph Ammirati and Martin Puris, who had worked together at Carl Ally Inc. as art and copy group heads, respectively, about starting a new agency. Mr. Kroll suggested a third partner, Julian AvRutick, a 13-year Y&R veteran who headed the company's Mexico City operation. Mr. Kroll then enlisted the support of Y&R President Ed Ney, who contributed a 50% financial stake of about $125,000. Ammirati Puris AvRutick opened in August 1973 in New York with only the small Chrysler Trailblazer account.

Large-agency depth

The new agency emphasized its independence from Y&R while at the same time promising would-be clients access to the Y&R network's resources. Ammirati positioned itself as a midsize agency with large-agency depth. On that basis, it went after blue-chip accounts, declining to work with tiny companies in marginal product categories. The Chrysler business was so small and business directed from Y&R so slow in coming, however, that the partners recognized the agency would have to stand or fall on its own merits. In 1974, it was invited to pitch the BMW business in competition with Ted Bates & Co. and Benton & Bowles. With only two weeks of operating income left, Ammirati won the account.

In December 1977, Ammirati Puris AvRutick bought back Y&R's interest in the shop, and the independent agency went on to add small and midsize accounts over the next several years. In spring 1979, Mr. AvRutick resigned and was succeeded as president by Mr. Puris. At the end of April, the AvRutick name was dropped, and the agency began doing business as Ammirati & Puris. Billings had risen to about $17 million and would double over the next 10 years.

The agency made its reputation on high-profile campaigns. For BMW there was "The Ultimate Driving Machine." For Club Med in 1980 there was "The Club Med Vacation . . . the Antidote for Civilization." And Ammirati won Dataproducts, America's largest maker of computer printers, in 1984, just as the personal computer revolution was about to take off. Overall, the agency's work became associated with luxury brand names and the "yuppie" value of acquisition.

During Ammirati's early years, its reputation for producing dry, witty creative tended to overshadow its goal of being a full-service agency. In 1983, it addressed that by strengthening its account management when Ed Vick came from Ogilvy & Mather to be chief operating officer. The agency sought and won the account of Schweppes ("The great British bubbly"), Pulsar Time and United Parcel Service ("We run the tightest ship in the shipping business"), bringing its roster to eight clients and its billings close to $120 million by the mid-1980s, although it lost Club Med. Elegance became the agency's signature, along with a touch of arrogance in its client relationships.

Expansion

Ammirati expanded into direct marketing in 1986 and, in 1987, won the $15 million Reebok shoe account, another instance of fortuitous timing, as the athletic shoe category was about to see explosive growth. But Ammirati dropped the business almost as quickly as it won it, claiming that the client could not be satisfied and was demoralizing the shop. (Reebok would later return on better terms.)

In May 1987, in a transaction that totaled $31.8 million (including $6.3 million in stock), Ammirati was acquired by the British holding company Boase, Massimi, Pollitt Partnership, a public company. It was an ideal arrangement for the agency's remaining founders, each of whom netted 37 % of the sale, with 10 % going to Mr. Vick and the balance to 17 other executives. Messrs. Ammirati and Puris also retained their titles, authority and autonomy.

In June 1989, BMP announced that in an effort to block a hostile takeover by French agency Boulet, Dru, DuPuy, Petit, it would sell to Omnicom, which already owned two agencies, DDB Needham and Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn. Unhappy about the new ownership and concerned about client conflicts, Ammirati, then billing $210 million, quickly entered into negotiations to buy itself back from its new parent. Talks went on for six months before a deal was worked out, but in January 1990 the agency regained its independence for an estimated $30 million. The terms of the agreement reportedly dissatisfied Mr. Vick, who left Ammirati in February 1990.

Growth continued, with the agency picking up $120 million in new business in 1992 alone, bringing Ammirati's billings to the $400 million level. One of its biggest new accounts was MasterCard International, whose own growth had been stalled by rival Visa's appeals to upscale consumers and the emergence of the Discover Card. Another new account was Compaq Computer, which the agency sought to reposition as a blue-chip brand with low prices. But 1992 was also the year that BMW announced a review of its agency affiliations. In what was widely regarded in the industry as a move of considerable wisdom, Ammirati quietly relinquished the BMW account.

In 1994, after four years of independence, Ammirati was approached by yet another potential buyer: Interpublic Group of Cos. Chairman Philip Geier saw a role for the agency within Interpublic's Lintas Worldwide network. With Lintas and Ammirati, there would be few likely conflicts, especially after IBM Corp. departed Lintas, thereby eliminating any conflict with Ammirati's Compaq account.

After months of talks—during which time Ammirati won the Burger King business, bringing its billings to $500 million—Lintas and Ammirati reached agreement on July 18 for an exchange of stock estimated at between $45 million and $55 million. Ammirati used $17 million to retire debt to Omnicom for its 1989 buyback. Mr. Puris received 45 % of the balance; Mr. Ammirati, 15 %; and the rest went to senior executives. The agreement called for the merger of Ammirati with Lintas Worldwide, whose New York office billings had suffered declines after it lost the Diet Coke and IBM Corp. accounts.

Merger results

The combined agency was named Ammirati & Puris/Lintas and, with billings of $850 million, became one of the top shops in New York and gained an international presence. Mr. Puris became president and Mr. Ammirati, chairman. The merger resulted in the loss of six clients and staff layoffs of about 40. Seventeen months later on Feb. 1, 1996, Lintas Worldwide, one of Interpublic's three international networks, was formally renamed Ammirati Puris Lintas.

By 1999, Interpublic was the umbrella organization for four separate agency networks: McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Lowe Group, Draft Worldwide and APL. On Oct. 29, 1999, in a move to achieve economies of scale, Interpublic folded APL into Lowe, creating Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, with combined billings of $6.5 billion, three U.S. offices and 94 others around the world, according to the 2000 Advertising Age Agency Report.

Mr. Puris resigned as CEO of the agency and also left Interpublic's board. Mr. Ammirati had already retired at the time of this merger.

In 2001, the agency dropped the name Lintas to become Lowe & Partners Worldwide, the backbone of Interpublic’s Lowe (The Partnership) sector. Lowe and DraftWorldwide created an alliance in April 2003 called Lowe & Draft, later Lowe + Draft Partnership.

Also in 2003, Bozell, New York, was combined with Lowe & Partners, New York, to create Lowe New York while eliminating the Bozell name.

According to Advertising Age, Lowe & Partners Worldwide had 2003 worldwide revenue of $406 million, up 0.6% over 2002 figures, and U.S. revenue of $133.8 million, down 6.8% from 2002. The agency's URL is loweworldwide.com.

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