TELEVEST WINS PARAMOUNT: TV BIZ SHIFT COULD LEAD TO MEDIA-SERVICE MERGER

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Paramount Pictures Corp. reinforced TeleVest's position as the nation's largest network TV buyer last week by moving its media account there, but it may also have provided the catalyst for a media buying merger that would knock TeleVest to No. 2.

As first reported by Advertising Age (Ad Age Daily Fax, Nov. 21), Paramount moved its national TV buying account on Nov. 21 from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather to MacManus Group's TeleVest, New York. Billings could be upward of $100 million, say executives close to the studio, though its 1995 billings, as tracked by Competitive Media Reporting, were about half that.

MEDIA JUGGERNAUT

No agency wants to lose an account of that magnitude. But the Paramount shift would make it easier for O&M to merge its media operations with those of sister WPP agency J. Walter Thompson Co., which earlier this year won the media account of Paramount rival Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

An O&M/ JWT media juggernaut would have network TV billings of about $1.5 billion, vs. TeleVest's $1.2 billion.

Though, officially, both WPP agencies continue to deny that any such plan is in the works, executives with knowledge of the situation say a merger of the media departments is likely next year. WPP has already combined media operations of its two shops in Canada and Thailand.

Other possible conflicts in the U.S. could be American Express Co. (O&M) and Citibank (JWT); Nynex Corp. (O&M) and Sprint Corp. (JWT); and IBM Corp. (O&M) and Sun Microsystems (JWT). There are a number of shared clients, including Ford Motor Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Kraft Foods and Unilever.

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