$500 Million Account May Be in Review

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Walt Disney Co. sent out letters this week to a handful of media agencies inviting them to meet with executives from the motion pictures and home video divisions.

The letter is expected to be a possible first step in a media review for its approximate $500 million planning and buying business, though executives who were contacted characterized the invitation as "soft."

Disney's stock has been tanking in the market, and the company is looking at its options. According to agency executives, the letter suggests that Disney may not even change agencies. The company has employed Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media for more than a decade.

"They were always a tough client to begin with, when Western had it, before they became Initiative Media," said an executive who was close to former Western CEO Dennis Holt. "That was Dennis' biggest account at Western. It was $400 million plus. But he never really made any money out of it. He basically just squeezed good deals out of local media."

One executive saw the Disney letter as a play to squeeze better pricing out of Initiative.

In any case, Walt Disney will not be able to simply pick and choose a new shop. Most of the big agencies have conflicting movie accounts. Agencies that have no conflicts and were likely to have received a Disney letter include Zenith Media, which is owned jointly by Publicis Groupe and Cordiant Communications Group; Horizon Media; WPP Group's the Media Edge; and Bcom3 Group's Starcom Media.

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