Founded in 1899, Lintas was created as a house agency for Lever Brothers, a London soap manufacturer. The name Lintas is an acronym for Lever International Advertising Services. For years, it operated as a department within the Lever corporate structure, producing advertising for Lever brands, including Sunlight, one of the earliest packaged laundry soaps.
Lever was an aggressive international marketer that sold its products throughout Europe, Australia, India and parts of the Middle East and Africa—wherever the British empire led. Consequently, Lintas followed the activities of its parent company and developed an advertising operation accustomed to working on a global scale with a colonial view of nations and cultures.
One of the earliest Lever products was Lifebuoy soap, developed in 1894. The original formula contained a substantial amount of carbolic acid, which gave it the aroma of a hospital ward and opened the way for its initial positioning as a disinfectant soap. Whenever a disease or epidemic swept a region of the world in which Lever had distribution, Lintas would cover the area with advertising for Lifebuoy, emphasizing its clinical benefits. Lintas remained largely an international advertising operation working outside the U.S. market, where Lever Brothers used established American agencies to build its brands.
In 1930, Lever merged with Margarine Union, a company based in the Netherlands. The result of the combined operations was a new global giant, Unilever; in the U.S., Lever Brothers remained the name of record. At the same time, Lintas was spun off as an independent agency based in London. Though it continued to be owned by Unilever and carried a substantial volume of Unilever business, Lintas was free to seek noncompeting business.
Lintas confined its growth activities over the next three decades primarily to European clientele and companies marketing in Europe, such as Johnson & Johnson. This accounted for about 20% of its billings by 1960, the balance being Unilever. With offices in 26 countries encompassing 49 languages by then, Lintas claimed to be Europe's largest advertising agency.
The U.S. market
In the 1960s, Lintas finally found a suitable partner for its entry into the U.S. market. Sullivan, Stauffer, Colwell & Bayles, formed in 1946, began a cooperative relationship with Lintas in 1962. In June 1967, Lintas and SSC&B announced a joint venture to be called SSC&B-Lintas International headquartered in London. The agreement made each agency's services available to the other and provided Lintas with a U.S. presence for the first time in its history.
Although its name was little known in the U.S., Lintas had global billings of approximately $96 million by 1970 (about 80% of which were still linked to Unilever), making it one of the largest European agencies. SSC&B's U.S. billings for 1970 were reported at around $122 million, which as well as Lever Brothers billings also included Lipton, another Unilever subsidiary. In February 1970, SSC&B bought a 49% stake of SSC&B-Lintas International, with 51% remaining with Unilever. The deal created the world's No. 7 advertising agency.
SSC&B reportedly planned to acquire the remaining 51% in the future; however, throughout the 1970s an unexpected reversal of fortunes occurred. By 1977, Lintas was contributing billings of more than $550 million, while SSC&B's U.S. business had grown only by about 34%, giving the U.S. office billings of $163 million. For Lintas, which expected to benefit from SSC&B's new-business growth among clients with international needs, this was a disappointment. SSC&B was also losing Lever Brothers business to McCann-Erickson. There were rumors that Lintas was looking for a way out of a relationship that was not performing.
As the number of mergers and acquisitions increased throughout the 1970s, Interpublic Group of Cos. emerged as the most important buyer. Late in the decade, Interpublic Chairman Philip Geier, perhaps at Unilever's suggestion, began to consider ways in which the international Lintas network might fit into the Interpublic structure. After nearly a year of negotiations, in September 1979, Interpublic formally acquired SSC&B, whose most valuable asset by then was its 49% share of SSC&B-Lintas International. In 1982, when Interpublic finally acquired the remaining 51% Lintas stake from Unilever, cutting all Lintas ownership ties to its founding parent. The name was changed in 1981 from SSC&B-Lintas International to SSC&B: Lintas Worldwide.
SSC&B: Lintas Worldwide became the third major group within the Interpublic family, and SSC&B continued as the U.S. operating unit. What distinguished the Lintas unit from the beginning was its far-ranging international network of agency relationships. The Interpublic merger hit its stride in 1982 with one of the most successful new-product launches of the decade—the introduction of Diet Coke with the SSC&B: Lintas Worldwide campaign "Just for the taste of it."
Through the early 1980s, nearly three-quarters of SSC&B: Lintas Worldwide's billings still came from abroad. In 1986, domestic billings stood at $460 million vs. $1.65 billion outside the U.S., a ratio that had been more or less consistent since the 1981 merger. The Lintas global heritage continued to overshadow that of SSC&B, a fact formally recognized in October 1987 when Interpublic merged the agency with sibling shop Campbell-Ewald and dropped the SSC&B initials from the name, retiring the last vestige of that agency. So was born Lintas: Worldwide, a $2.8 billion unit of Interpublic that included two divisions.
All overseas operations reported to Lintas: International, while Lintas: USA oversaw Campbell-Ewald, which continued as Lintas: Campbell Ewald, based in Warren, Mich.; all this was accomplished without a single account conflict. In the first year after the merger, Lintas: Worldwide brought in $250 million in new business, including MasterCard International, IBM Corp.'s personal computer and Princess Cruises.
Over the first four years of the 1990s, a string of reversals hit the Lintas: New York operation, as business seemed to flood out the door. From a high of $750 million, billings slid nearly 60% to $350 million by 1994. Diet Coke left the agency, along with IBM and MasterCard. The MasterCard business went to Ammirati & Puris, New York.
With the fortunes of Lintas: New York in disarray, Mr. Geier saw Ammirati as a desirable merger prospect, especially after Lintas lost IBM, clearing away any possible conflict with Ammirati's Compaq Computer business. Moreover, Ammirati was on a roll, having just signed Burger King Corp. In July 1994, Interpublic acquired Ammirati for approximately $50 million with the intent of merging it with Lintas: Worldwide. The new $850 million agency would be Ammirati Puris/Lintas; after a minor shakeout of clients, the agency became simply Ammirati Puris Lintas Worldwide in February 1996, with Ralph Ammirati as chairman.
Five years after the Ammirati deal, management decided that personnel problems and lower than expected growth numbers required a realignment. By 1999, Interpublic's four agency groups had evolved into McCann-Erickson Worldwide, the Lowe Group, and Ammirati. On Oct. 29, 1999, Interpublic folded Ammirati into the Lowe Group, dropping Ammirati and Puris from the name, and the new agency group emerged as Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, under Chairman-CEO Frank Lowe.
In 2002, the Lintas name was dropped, with Lowe (The Partnership) overseeing the renamed Lowe & Partners Worldwide network, its Middle East North Africa network and a string of U.S. shops, including Deutsch, Martin Agency, Bozell and DraftWorldwide.
Worldwide gross income in 2001 was $1.9 billion, down 4.3% from 2000, on billings of $14.9 billion, down 4.1%.
In late March 2003, Lowe & Partners Worldwide announced it would align across the world with DraftWorldwide, a sibling Interpublic company, under the banner Lowe & Draft, although the two would maintain separate business models.