On the financial front, Grey Advertising, New York, had a tough year, posting a net loss for the first nine months. Also, merger rumors were in the air as observers whispered about Grey meetings with Saatchi & Saatchi's Kevin Roberts and True North Communications' David Bell. However, Grey management denies any imminent marriage.
Grey did have a respectable year on the new-business front, nabbing $100 million in new billings from Glaxo Wellcome and $100 million from Oracle Corp., while also gaining new assignments from Procter & Gamble Co., American Home Products Corp., Playtex Family Products Corp. and Hasbro. In the dot-com universe, Grey picked up Individual.com, Kforce.com and Orientation.com. Its 1999 losses were minimal, but it is still reeling from the 1998 departures of Barilla Co., Kraft Foods and Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America.
Creatively, most of Grey's work was average, if not below average. One of the few bright spots was a new effort for Pantene, which featured a potpourri of women.
Keep an eye on the agency's Sprint Corp. consumer creative and media business; it looks like the agency and client will disconnect. Merger rumors will continue in 2000, as will talk about the old guard at Grey not prepping future management.