The Interpublic Group of Cos. shop has hired Future Brand, New York, a sister agency, to come up with a new name.
"We're considering it," confirmed Larry Lamattina, Western Initiative chairman-CEO.
A new name would retire two of the world's best-known media buying brands. Western, formerly Western International Media, is one of the oldest and largest media buyers in the U.S. It claims to be the top-billing shop in spot TV, newspapers and radio, and is in the top 10 in network TV, cable TV and magazines. Initiative, thanks primarily to lead client Unilever, is equally well-known in the U.K., Europe and other countries.
Before merging with Western, Initiative was known as Initiative Media Worldwide, a division of Ammirati Puris Lintas.
ONE + ONE = THREE
"With the merging of Western and Initiative, we really feel as if one plus one equals three, so we want to reposition the company with a new name for the new millennium," said one top Western Initiative executive. He added that there's "no urgency" to do so.
However, some U.S. executives at the agency said they expect a decision soon because, in the words of one of them, "We still don't have any new business cards with both names on it."
Western and Initiative merged at the beginning of the year.
"For the most part, Western is a limp brand outside the U.S.," said a former Initiative Media executive. "But I think there is a fear on the part of the Initiative folks that with the company called Western Initiative, it will eventually just become referred to as Western by everyone in the business, worldwide. They'd rather see a new name than have that happen."
Marie-Jose Forissier, the Paris-based vice chairman of Western Initiative, didn't return phone calls. Michael Kassan, the U.S.-based vice chairman, was traveling and could not be reached.
Another reason for a new name is to offset confusion in the U.K., where both Western and Initiative have separate offices.
"Western buys for General Motors' Vauxhall and Initiative has Peugeot, so those U.K. offices have to remain separate," said one Western Initiative manager.
But a number of insiders are not happy about the name search.
"It's crazy. One person here has been saying, 'What, they're going to lose two incredible brand names and come up with Lipschitz Media?' I can see them coming up with a new name for the few Western offices outside the U.S., like in London, but they should keep Western Initiative for everything else."
The internecine battle illustrates the difficulty in merging formerly independent units.
"I think this is one Phil [Geier, Interpublic chairman-CEO] is going to have to