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A disastrous year for agency networks in Asia and Russia was offset by strong growth and acquisition binges elsewhere, leading to a 5.6% increase in gross income for international networks outside the U.S. in 1998.

Region-by-region network rankings are being published today in the June Advertising Age International.

In a sign of how bad Asia's economic crisis is, 18 of the top 25 networks in the region lost up to 28.8% in gross income during 1998. Overall, agency gross income slipped by 12.6% in the region.

"1998 was the most difficult year I have experienced in 20 years in Asia," said Roger Winter, Bozell Worldwide's Hong Kong-based president for Asia-Pacific, of his network's 28.8% plunge in gross income. "Every single market was impacted and it seemed as if every client reduced budgets."

The world's other dark spot was Russia: "Being a leading agency in Russia, the economic crises there had a significant negative impact on our overall results," said Arthur Selkowitz, worldwide chairman-CEO of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York.

DMB&B was the only network among the top 25 in Europe to record a dip in gross income in 1998, down 4.5%. Otherwise, agency networks boomed in Europe, with gross income soaring by 15.1% in 1998.

Latin America was another growth area, with the top networks increasing gross income by 12.3%.


Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide stirred up the rankings this year. Acquisitions were the reason, as TBWA entered the ranks of top networks in Asia for the first time, at No. 16, after buying Nippo Corp., Tokyo. In Europe, TBWA rose seven places to No. 10, largely behind the acquisition of GGT/BDDP Group.

McCann-Erickson Worldwide emerged as one of the strongest contenders in each region. In hard-hit Asia, McCann was one of the few networks to grow, albeit only by 1.4%. In Latin America, where No. 1 McCann is twice as large as any other network, the agency still managed to increase gross income by almost 20%. And in Europe, No. 3 McCann grew by 16.9%, surpassed only by networks that made major acquisitions during the year.

In the rankings, the No. 1 network in each region remained the same as in the previous year: McCann for Latin America, Euro RSCG Worldwide in Europe and Dentsu in Asia.

The U.S. continues to dominate the global ad market, with 12% growth in gross income for 1998. Due to the poor Asia performance, non-U.S. gross income fell to

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