Ingram in Charge

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The dean of independent media agencies will soon return to New York.

Chris Ingram, founder of CIA Medianetwork, which was acquired by WPP Group in 2001, expects to launch the Ingram Partnership in New York this year. After selling his first company, which was merged with Media Edge to create Mediaedge:cia, Mr. Ingram bought a British soccer team and began writing a book. "It was about building businesses from an entrepreneurial point of view," he said in an interview late last year. "But I decided to do something about it instead of writing about it. In my first week at home, I realized that I had to get back to work rather than being on the sidelines and wringing my hands." When his non-compete clause expired on Nov. 6, 2002, Mr. Ingram acquired Unity, a small strategic media agency and The Gathering, a brand consultancy, both based in London. He was in New York in January taking meetings with potential partners to open a U.S. beachhead.

"He's looking at companies in the marketing business, not necessarily media agencies," says Tom Sassos, partner at Media Analysis Plus, New York. Mr. Sassos was the former CEO of CIA New York. "He's really trying to get into some high-level marketing consultancies."

Mr. Ingram told Advertising Age that he's looking to create an agency here that mixes media or communications strategy with brand building and with new-product development. "People whose main motivation is winning new business are not going to be right for this company," Mr. Ingram said, taking a potshot at large media agencies and their appetite for gobbling up new business. "This is a different way of doing media. It's a new sector, relatively small at the moment. We're not going to be implementing or buying spots, but we will work with clients on their brand strategy."

Unity is one of three hot London media shops that do communications strategy rather than media buying; the others are Michaelides & Bednash, which opened an office in New York two years ago, and Naked, soon to open in New York. The Ingram Partnership acquired Unity and The Gathering for 50% cash and 50% stock ownership in the partnership. Mr. Ingram says he spent upwards of $18 million to launch the new company. Unity clients include Carphone Warehouse, Pilsner Urquell, Lucasfilms, Hachette Filipacchi U.K., Guardian Newspapers and Comic Relief; The Gathering's clients are B&Q, Bosch Appliances, Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft Foods. The partnership's founding partners are Mr. Ingram; Ditlev Schwanenflugel, a former McKinsey & Co. management consultant; Gathering executives Duncan Bruce and Marc Cox; and Unity's Ivan Pollard and Andy Tilley.