German media buyer GFMO seeks partner

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HAMBURG -- GFMO, Germany's largest media buying and planning independent not owned by an multinational network, is seeking an international partner - particularly one strong in Central Europe. Manager Anne Marx says that negotiations with an international partner began prior to the March 4 death during a heart operation of Dieter Krause, who owned a majority stake in GFMO. Marx would not identify any of the companies GFMO is in negotiations with.

With estimated billings of $900m, GFMO is Germany's fifth biggest media independent after HMS/ Carat, MediaCom, the Media Partnership and Universal. GFMO was spun off in June 1996 as the result of a buy-out from its parent Debis Marketing Services, which is owned by Stuttgart- based industrial group Daimler-Benz. Debis retained a 10% stake in GFMO, which suited GFMO because Mercedes-Benz, which is also owned by Daimler- Benz, is one of GFMO's largest clients.

GFMO's largest client is Beiersdorf, which it handles in Germany. Beiersdorf lets its national subsidiaries decide who will handle media buying. Other major clients include German tobacco giant Reemtsma (Germany only) and the railroad Bundesbahn and Tchibo coffee.

Currently, Krause's heirs own 78% of GFMO, senior employees hold 12% and Debis retains a 10% stake. GFMO has offices in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. In the past, GFMO had links with Orion International Media Solutions, the international network of independent media networks.

There were rumors circulating in Germany that GFMO was in talks with CIA Group, Europe's second largest media independent, but CIA Group Executive Chairman Chris Ingram says the network has not held any such talks with GFMO. CIA Medianetwork, the European media buying network owned by the CIA Group, bought a 21% stake in the German media independent Mediahaus Strobel in 1995. "We would not do anything in Germany without involving our partner (Mediahaus Strobel)," says Ingram.

Although media buying in Germany traditionally has had a reputation for a lack of creative planning and sticking to ratecard prices, the market has undergone a transformation as the number of media outlets has mushroomed in Europe's largest advertising market. The shift from buying media via full-service agencies to using media specialists happened later in Germany than in many European markets, but now there is great demand for skills in evaluating advertising performance across various media.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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