New business appeared to pick up in February, with larger accounts changing hands and five out of six major holding companies posting positive net new business. Only 37 accounts changed hands, compared to 43 a year ago, but they were worth $1.4 billion, up 18% from $1.2 billion last year. WPP Group, which had suffered some high-profile losses in the last three months, reversed its trend when Wunderman took part of the consolidated $400 million customer relationship management account of Microsoft Corp. it shares with Interpublic Group of Cos.' MRM. Meanwhile, Omnicom Group continued its strong new business clip with wins from DirecTV and Sara Lee Foods.
Markets' mood swings: Stocks recovered from the effects of the Madrid bombings in an early week surge powered by Federal Reserve Board comments hinting interest rates will stay low. But markets slumped late in the week, following news of battles with Taliban and Al Qaeda forces on the Afghan-Pakistani border. Markets were also stirred up due to "quadruple witching," the expiration of four types of futures and options contracts. Only 14 Admarket stocks were up for the week, 36 were down.
Yahoo! rallied after it was upgraded by two analysts, and Gannett Co. rose after its CEO told an analyst group the company is on track to meet earnings estimates for the first quarter. Catalina Marketing also rose after it appointed a new CEO and announced regulators had approved some of its accounting.
Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended March 19, based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices March. 12. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.