CIA Medianetwork makes first U.S. foray

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LONDON -- In the first step of a two year plan to build a string of regional offices across the U.S., London-based Tempus Group has bought VSM Media Inc., New York. The acquisition is part of the group's five year plan to be one of the world's top six media networks by 2001.

Tempus, Europe's second largest independent media communications group, and the holding company for CIA Medianetwork, is expected to pay $14.7 million over three years for the $220 million-billing medium-sized media independent whose clients include Guinness, Volvo, Barnes & Noble and JP Morgan.

The agency will be renamed CIA VSM Media Inc. and will form the first building block of CIA Medianetwork North America, said Chris Ingram, Tempus Group chairman and the founder 22 years ago of the original Chris Ingram Associates agency that has since spawned a network of 36 offices in 23 countries spanning Europe, Asia and now the U.S.

Mr. Ingram said the company plans to build a network of four or five regional offices in the U.S. over the next two years that will combine services clients can't currently buy from just one source - such as media research, strategic planning and new media skills. "The skills are there [in the U.S.], but they're not integrated, they're in separate boxes," he said. "We think it's more effective and more user-friendly if they can be housed together."

CIA's U.S. network could develop via acquisitions or organically, he said. Some existing VSM clients have already been pushing for a presence in other areas of the U.S. "Now we'll be able to put those resources in."

Mr. Ingram confirmed a U.S. link with True North Communications, mooted last June, is still under consideration, and said the potential for a global alliance with any partner was not "in any way diminished by this [VSM acquisition]."

He denied talks were underway for such an alliance with WPP Group, which recently raised its stake in Tempus to 14.7%. Any bid for Tempus "would have to be considered," but Mr. Ingram stressed the group is "incredibly independent-minded - and we're having a ball."

CIA's pitch to U.S. clients will be based on its strategic planning skills, international media management expertise and coordinated international service. For CIA, which already handles multinationals such as Nike, DHL and Calvin Klein, the U.S. offers the world's highest number of global client headquarters. The acquisition will also give CIA access to areas of particular U.S. expertise, such as infomercials, direct marketing and syndicated programming, said Mr. Ingram.

The timing of CIA's move to the U.S. was dependent on the establishment first of "critical mass" and a strong management team in Europe, according to Mr. Ingram, though he admitted the transatlantic leap has come later than he'd wanted.

For the six months from October, Mr. Ingram will be based in the U.S.

Tempus reported turnover of $988 million for the six months to June 30, 1998, 34% higher than in the same period the previous year, and an increase of 83% in profits before tax of $10.6 million. It also announced the purchase of Paris-based media independent Le Lab SA.

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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