RINEY SETS SAIL UNDER NEW OWNERS: PUBLICIS & HAL RINEY AGENCY RATING: 2-1/2 STARS

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After an eternity of courtship, 1998 was the year that Hal Riney said "oui," selling his shop to Maurice Levy's Publicis.

Riney then brought a new account almost as soon as the French flag was hoisted, a $30 million Hewlett-Packard PC global branding effort.

Overall, agency billings jumped from $650 million in 1997 to $702 million, with the shop producing some of its grandest scale work ever.

The agency's First Union effort featured a dark, imaginary financial world. The client loved it, but the campaign got mixed reviews elsewhere.

While the creative prowess of the shop that seeded the creative movement in San Francisco may have been questioned occasionally in recent years, Mr. Riney himself got back into the business in 1998, not only crafting the bank and new Saturn ads, but getting the shop into the Miller Lite beer pitch.

LOOKING AHEAD

Examining the longer term, questions about the shop's future include whether Mr. Levy will call upon the agency to take a larger role in leading the charge for the French in North America; observers will be watching how that affects the San

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