Y&R JOINS RANKS OF AD GROUPS WITH DOUBLE-DIGIT GAINS: 'VERY POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT,' NOTES ANALYST

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Evidence of the booming ad business hit the street via a handful of third-quarter financial reports boasting double-digit revenue growth.

Late last week, Young & Rubicam reported a big jump, up 14.1% over the same period in 1998. That follows similar results for Omnicom Group, WPP Group and Interpublic Group of Cos.

True North Communications will report its earnings Nov. 4.

Omnicom was first out of the chute, on Oct. 21, posting a 17% jump in revenue for the quarter. For the year, Omnicom's revenue has increased 20%, to $3.6 billion.

WPP was next, with a 14.2% rise to $881.7 million in third-quarter revenue, and a year-to-date gain of almost 12%. WPP's nine-month revenue totaled $2.55 billion.

IPG INCOME UP 14.5%

Interpublic's gross income rose 14.5%, to $1.04 billion, for the third quarter, and 11.9%, to $3.1 billion, for the first nine months.

These top ad agency holding companies credit increased billings from integrated marketing communications, including direct marketing, interactive and public relations. Acquisitions of those same types of specialist shops also are driving the revenue growth.

Tom Bell, Y&R president-chief operating officer, said his company's integrated marketing clients have contributed to steady growth. He also cited recently acquired diversified marketing operations.

WPP also saw marked improvement in its specialized units-public relations and public affairs revenues were up almost 32%, followed closely by branding, identity and healthcare, the latter up about 23%.

However, advertising, research and media planning and buying were up only 5% at WPP.

CONTINUING BOOM

The major ad organizations have experienced this boom throughout the '90s. Omnicom, for example, has reported 32 consecutive quarters of revenue and earnings growth.

"This is a very positive environment for advertising," said James Dougherty, analyst at Prudential Securities.

He said the industry is not only enjoying a rosy current scene, but can look ahead to the coming millennium, with its presidential election and Olympics.

"The year 2000 is expected to be a watershed year in the industry, much like

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