Ammirati Puris Lintas

Ammirati Puris Lintas : advertising & marketing profile

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Between 1994 and 1999 Ammirati Puris Lintas (APL) was the second global advertising network within Interpublic, until being merged with stablemate Lowe & Partners to form Lowe Lintas & Partners. APL had itself been created from the combination in 1994 of Ammirati & Puris with Lintas Worldwide, once one of the world's biggest advertising agencies. Along the way, it swallowed up Sullivan Stauffer Colwell & Bayles (or SSC&B), one of the more important agencies launched in New York in the years following World War II.

Lintas started life as the in-house advertising department of Lever Brothers, developing promotional materials for the company's soap and laundry detergent products. Following the merger in 1930 of Lever with Margarine Unie of Holland to create Unilever, it was established as a separate unit under the name Lever International Advertising Service, soon abbreviated as Lintas. As the newly created Unilever expanded its global profile further, so too did Lintas with the result that, by the mid-1950s, the agency had established offices in more than 20 countries around the world, becoming one of the world's biggest advertising networks. This footprint made Lintas a valuable ally to other multinational brands, and gradually it began to take on third-party clients as well, especially outside the UK. 

One of the few territories where Lintas did not have a presence was the US, where Unilever relied on local agencies better experienced in that country's more sophisticated advertising market. As a result, when commercial television began to spread to other countries in the 1950s and 1960s, Lintas lacked the skills to tackle this more complicated medium. To fill the gap in its knowledge, it agreed an alliance in 1962 with New York agency Sullivan Stauffer Colwell & Bayles (SSC&B). Founded in 1946 by Raymond Sullivan, Donald Stauffer, Robert Colwell, and S Heagan Bayles, this had grown into one of America's largest post-war agencies, partly on the strength of the spectacular launch of the Cover Girl cosmetics brand for Noxell. Under the new arrangement, SSC&B trained Lintas executives in the new medium of television in exchange for access to the latter's extensive international network. It proved a mutually beneficial association, and gradually the relationship developed. Formal links between the two companies were cemented with the creation in 1967 of SSC&B: Lintas International, a joint venture which handled clients such as Esso and Monsanto around the globe. Three years later, SSC&B agreed to purchase a 49% stake in Lintas, and assumed management control of the business. At the time, it was the biggest merger in advertising history, creating a giant company with billings of $200m.

In 1978 SSC&B set another new record for the industry when it was itself acquired by Interpublic, then intent on building its position as the world's biggest advertising group. Having inherited the 49% holding in SSC&B: Lintas International as part of this deal, Interpublic bought out Unilever's remaining stake in the network four years later to take full control of the business, and agreed a liaison with Hakuhodo to serve the Japanese market. In the meantime, SSC&B: Lintas in New York had once again proved its talents with the enormously successful "Just for the Taste of It" launch campaign for Diet Coke. If anything however, this triumph only seemed to emphasise the limitations of the Lintas name. Its strong associations with Unilever served to deter some potential clients who competed directly with the packaged goods giant. Yet at the same time, Unilever was itself steadily reducing the number of briefs it farmed out to the agency.

Interpublic tried a number of different ways of resolving this growing problem over the following years, but none provided more than a temporary fix. The first was a combination in 1987 with Campbell-Ewald, another important US agency, known for its work for General Motors. This gave the Detroit-based Campbell-Ewald an important outpost in New York, as well as a broader international profile. Soon afterwards, the London arm of Lintas was merged with local creative hot-shop Still Price Court Twivy D'Souza to create SP Lintas. However, after an initial boost, Lintas's performance began to slip once again in the early 1990s, and the New York agency was severely damaged by a series of client losses, including the key Diet Coke account, between 1992 and 1994. Clearly, further action was necessary.

Ammirati & Puris was another New York agency, originally founded in 1974 by Martin Puris, Ralph Ammirati and Julian AvRutick as Ammirati Puris AvRutick, with backing from Y&R. For several years the agency had struggled to stay afloat but it was saved by the rapid growth of its first and biggest client, a German automobile manufacturer then just beginning to take its first steps into the US market: BMW. It was Puris himself who conceived the car's celebrated description as "the ultimate driving machine". AvRutick returned to Y&R in 1978, at the same time as Ammirati and Puris bought out the larger agency's shareholding. In the next two years, Ammirati & Puris's billings more than doubled as a string of other blue-chip accounts were lured to the agency by the success of the BMW campaigns. In 1987, the business was acquired by fast-expanding British agency BMP (later DDB London). Ammirati & Puris bought the business back three years later after BMP was itself acquired by Omnicom.

By the early 1990s the agency was thriving as an independent with a clutch of important clients, including Burger King, Compaq and MasterCard - the latter poached in fact from Lintas New York. Interpublic felt Martin Puris was the right man to rescue the ailing Lintas, and the two businesses were combined as Ammirati Puris Lintas. A year later, Interpublic also acquired another UK agency, Kevin Morley Marketing, founded three years earlier by the former managing director of Rover Cars with a five year contract to handle Rover's advertising, then a significant UK account. All these various units were merged under Martin Puris's command towards the end of 1995, establishing Ammirati Puris Lintas as a new global advertising network.

By 1998 the network was the world's #13 agency brand, with 152 offices in 78 countries and billings of around $7.7bn. The division included the APL worldwide network, as well as a number of independently branded US agencies and a rapidly expanding internet division, APL Digital, with outposts in several territories around the globe. But the business still struggled to make headway, neither as profitable as big sister McCann-Erickson, nor perceived to be as creative as newer stablemate Lowe & Partners. Despite some decent wins, the network suffered a few disappointing losses in 1998 and 1999, including the global Compaq account and a large chunk of the NatWest account in the UK. It was generally perceived both within Interpublic and elsewhere in the industry that APL was still largely dependent on one client, Unilever.

At the same time Interpublic was negotiating to acquire rival marketing group MacManus and its DMB&B agency network, and was said to be reluctant to run four separate global advertising brands. (In fact the MacManus deal never materialised). As a result, in October 1999, Interpublic announced the merger of its two secondary agencies to create Lowe Lintas. Despite what seemed like equal billing, Lowe Group took the senior role in the newly formed Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide. APL chairman Martin Puris left the group, and it was Frank Lowe who took on the role of chairman. A few months later, IPG also combined most of its various interactive agencies, including much of APL Digital, into a separate dedicated network Zentropy Partners. The APL global advertising agencies were gradually converted to the new Lowe Lintas branding during 2000.

The Lintas name was finally consigned to the dustbin in 2001 after a further restructuring to accommodate the True North portfolio. The agency reverted to its Lowe & Partners brand. The Lintas name is still used in India and Portugal in joint ventures with local partners. Ralph Ammirati left Ammirati Puris Lintas in the mid-1990s. His nephew Matthew Ammirati is also in advertising, with his own agency in New York under the name Ammirati. That business was acquired in 2014 by digital agency Resource, becoming Resource/Ammirati.

Last full revision 3rd October 2017


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