New business activity improved slightly in September. Only 34 accounts changed agencies in September compared to 50 accounts in September 2002, but billings on accounts that moved in September were worth $1.1 billion, up $844 million. Havas benefited from Euro RSCG's win of the $180 million account of French retailer Carrefour and Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide's win of the $200 million KFC account boosted Interpublic's totals. Omnicom continued its new-business streak in the third quarter with $382 million in net new billings, with Grey Global Group a close second with $329 million.
GDP gooses growth: News that the third-quarter gross domestic product was up 7.2%-the fastest rate since 1984-gave the markets a shot in the arm, but they flattened as several companies posted so-so earnings. The GDP announcement helped markets rise midweek, but was tempered by a late-week report of lower consumer spending in October. For the week, 39 AdMarket stocks rose and 11 were down.
The GDP news put agency and media stocks at the top of the AdMarket rankings. Omnicom Group and WPP Group both rose after their third-quarter reports (see story, this page). Grey Global Group dropped after it completed a sale of $125 million in subordinated debt and Primedia slid after posting weak third-quarter numbers (see The Week, P. 17). Failed acquisitions took their toll on AT&T Corp., whose talks with BellSouth Corp. collapsed, and on Microsoft Corp., which reportedly was turned down by Google.
Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended Oct. 31, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices Oct. 24. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.