Sony buys Japanese agency; DMB&B launches new agency

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TOKYO -- Sony Corp has boosted to 94% its stake in mid-size Japanese ad agency Tokyu Agency International Inc, as part of the Japanese entertainments empire's growing role as media owner and content provider, as well as advertiser.

Just one day earlier, Sony revealed its plans to invest as a major partner in JSkyB, the digital satellite venture due to launch in April 1998 with 150 channels.

The ad agency, in which Sony already held 12.5% equity, changed its name on May 1 to Intervision Inc and now has new management. Tokyu Corp, a conglomerate that includes railroads and a department store, as well as Japan's third largest agency, Tokyu, has reduced its holding [in TAI, now Intervision] from 63.5% to 6%.

Intervision will not act as Sony's in-house agency, but will continue to carry out many of the same marketing activities as TAI and will attempt to strengthen its hand in the Japanese ad industry, Sony says. To that end, Sony's global operational network, hardware technologies, and software production capabilities will also be provided as part of the upscale agency's service.

The new company will particularly involve itself in advertising in new media such as digital TV, the Internet and software game-based formats.

New management installed at Intervision include Sony's adviser Koshiro Ando as president, as was widely predicted. He joined Sony in February of this year from Dentsu, Japan's largest advertising agency, where he had worked for 35 years, in senior account management as a member of the board and as a financial advisor. He was Dentsu's managing director between 1989 and 1995.

TAI's annual sales in 1996 were around $257m - a third of which were accounted for by Sony, a third by other domestic companies and a further third by overseas companies. Ando's first year goal is to boost sales at the Tokyo-based agency by 6%.

Of the nine-person board, three executives - including Ando - are from Dentsu, three are from Sony and three from TAI.

U.S.-based D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, which held a 24% stake in TAI, said May 15 it is establishing an independent agency in Japan, under its control, called D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles/TAI, and will take over all of the DMB&B-linked clients formerly handled by TAI.

DMB&B said it has invited Sony's Intervision to take a minority shareholding in its new agency, which it said will be one of the few major non- Japanese owned agencies in Japan.

The new DMB&B unit will bill around 10 billion yen, DMB&B said. Takeo Nakata, a 25-year veteran with TAI, will be its managing director. Clients include Procter & Gamble, Australian Tourist Commission, MasterCard, Gateway 2000, Mars/Masterfoods, Philips, Hyatt Hotels and Baskin Robbins.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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