WILL IT TAKE A PARTNER?: BATES USA -- AGENCY RATING: 2 STARS

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Bates celebrated the first anniversary of its separation from Saatchi & Saatchi by treading water. The agency won most of its $350 million in new billings from existing clients such as Warner-Lambert Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. But in spite of a push to find package-goods clients-where it had been barred by Saatchi's work for Procter & Gamble Co.-the agency failed to reel in any substantial new clients. At yearend, it fell just short in the media review by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, losing the $129 million account to Ogilvy & Mather.

Bates' creative remained lackluster, although it launched a well-received campaign for Hyundai Motors. Bates made moves in 1998 to boost its creative ranks; John Fawcett, the former chairman of George Patterson Bates, Sydney, moved to New York to become worldwide creative director, charged with raising the bar worldwide. Bates also sought to boost its specialized capabilities. It promoted John Marchese to president of 141 Integrated Communications and named Kevin Coyne exec VP-director of new media and new technologies, charged with building interactive offerings.

LOOKING AHEAD

Bates remains takeover bait in the eyes of observers, and reportedly remains in

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