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GEIER'S DEAL-ICIOUS WEEK PURIS RISES AT INTERPUBLIC, AS COMPANY BUYS HALF OF CME

By Published on .

NEW YORK-Interpublic Group of Cos. CEO Philip H. Geier lived up to his nickname of "Deals" last week.

Within mere days, he promoted Martin Puris to chairman-CEO and chief creative officer of Lintas Worldwide from president-CEO of Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, and acquired half of Minneapolis-based Campbell Mithun Esty.

Messrs. Geier and Puris each have gotten what they wanted since last September's merger of Ammirati & Puris and Lintas. For Mr. Geier, it's the chance to see Lintas' lackluster creative profile catapult into the same league as Ammirati. Mr. Puris gets a shot at running a worldwide network and a chance to eventually succeed Mr. Geier.

"It makes him a candidate," said one insider. "But, first he has to show he has an understanding of what it takes to drive a global network." Mr. Puris' take is much simpler: "Now we can translate our management culture and our way of approaching business on a worldwide basis."

When Mr. Puris succeeds retiring Lintas Worldwide CEO Kenneth Robbins this July, he will focus on bolstering creative work for current clients, with new business a distant second priority. Ammirati & Puris/Lintas is now pitching the Epson business and has forged a joint creative team to produce new executions for United Parcel Service and Burger King campaigns. Jointly crafted work for Lintas client Johnson & Johnson-just a few months ago considered shaky-has received a thumbs-up from J&J.

But a new priority will be expanding, and possibly retaining, MasterCard International. The former account-driven Lintas lost MasterCard to Ammirati and DeWitt Media in 1993. Now, MasterCard is searching for a new agency to handle its $80 million in media buying and planning (see story on Page 1).

While MasterCard insists the review is media only, the inclusion of GSD&M, Austin, Texas, in the review and long-running rumors within Interpublic that MasterCard is down on creative are prompting speculation the scope will be broader.

Mr. Puris' other challenge, agency sources say, is tackling large multinational clients.

"You can't have the A&P expectation of the ultimate crafted campaign and the no-holds-barred brilliance for a client like Burger King," said one Lintas creative executive. "You have to modify that position."

But Mr. Puris believes "preserving the culture and running a good business are even more important than 3% on the bottom line. A&P has always been very profitable."

And profits are what Mr. Geier wants. At Interpublic, he's hoping the $40 million purchase of a 50% stake in Campbell Mithun Esty from Cordiant will enhance the bottom line. A relatively small investment for Interpublic with CME management holding the other 50%, Mr. Geier said the shop "will run as a free standing agency," led by corporate President and Chief Operating Officer Howard Liszt and partnering with McCann-Erickson Worldwide on international business.

CME, with $500 million in billings, has been seeking an international partner for more than a year since it became clear that Cordiant-formerly Saatchi & Saatchi Co.-had formulated an ill-conceived strategy to build a global network by linking CME with London-based KHBB. The final blow was pressure from Cordiant client Procter & Gamble Co. to resolve a conflict resulting from CME's 1994 win of DowBrands.

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