Initiative advertising & marketing assignments

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Initiative is the smaller of Interpublic's two media services operations (alongside UM). It has enjoyed something of a rollercoaster ride through the past two decades, with some sizeable downswings in performance followed by spectacular recoveries. Formed in 1999 from the merger of Western International and Initiative Media, it was traditionally aligned with the Lowe and FCB agency networks. However performance was undermined by a series of major account losses in the first decade of the 2000s. That steady decline appeared to have been halted by 2009, and morale was boosted by a few important account gains. Nevertheless Initiative remains the smallest of the major global networks, and another set of account losses after 2015 cast a growing cloud over the network's longterm future. The appointment of Mat Baxter as CEO in 2016, and a series of significant account wins, led to renewed stability once again by the end of the decade. One key pillar was the capture of the increasingly substantial global Amazon media account. Another was the mammoth T-Mobile USA account at the beginning of 2021. AdAge named Initiative its US Comeback Agency of the Year for 2019 and then overall Agency of the Year for 2020. Despite widespread speculation, Interpublic has repeatedly denied any plans to merge its two media brands, but many of their respective network operations as well as several management roles have been consolidated into shared parent IPG Mediabrands, which now represents both agencies in less profitable "world markets". Initiative was ranked by COMvergence as the #12 media specialist worldwide in 2020 with billings of $8.4bn. Dimitri Maex succeeded Amy Armstrong as global CEO in 2022. AdAge estimated revenues of $410m in 2020, around two-thirds the equivalent figure for UM. In some markets, though, it surpasses its stablemate. In the UK for example, it is the local #11 by billings, while UM ranks #15.

Capsule checked 2nd July 2021

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Marketer Moves 20th Apr 2022: New CEO at Initiative. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Adbrands Daily Update 19th Aug 2019: Kellogg's announced the appointment of Zenith as its media agency for Australia & New Zealand, ending a 35-year relationship with Mindshare. However, the appointment has been surrounded by a certain amount of controversy. Neither Interpublic nor Omnicom agreed to participate in the review, and Mindshare declined the opportunity to defend the business. The reason was identified earlier this summer by Initiative CEO Mat Baxter, who told the Mumbrella 360 conference in June, "Just in this market, right now, there is a pitch going on for a consumer packaged goods client. The mandatory requirement to participate in that pitch: you've got to agree to 120-day payment terms and, if you don't, you're out. And I want to call out publicly Omnicom['s], PHD, who took a stand with us on not participating in that pitch. The really good agencies have got to start saying no." That 120-day payment arguably takes the demands placed by clients on media agencies to a new level. However, Kellogg's themselves said Baxter's comments misrepresented the process, though they also did not deny the stated terms.

Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Nov 2017: Interpublic's Initiative media agency scored an important win with the capture of global media for LEGO, taking over from Carat in most international markets and from Starcom in the US. Despite its position at the bottom of the global media network rankings, Initiative has repeatedly shown its ability to nip in and take steal key assignments from its bigger competitors. The most notable example, was its capture of the global Carlsberg media account earlier this year from OMD.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: Big signs of relief at Interpublic, after Initiative retained Amazon's $1bn global media account following review. Yet that also appears to have resulted in yet another blow for struggling MEC, which appears to have lost its share of the account handling digital media.

Adbrands Weekly Update 31st Aug 2017: Following the loss of several global clients in recent years and the impending review of its biggest remaining international client Amazon, IPG's Initiative network secured a huge morale boost with the capture of brewer Carlsberg's global account. The business will transfer from five year incumbent OMD at the beginning of 2018.

Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: Amazon is reported to have called a review of what is now its substantial global media budget, creating a major potential challenge to two networks who can ill afford further losses. Current global incumbent for traditional media is Initiative, which won the account four years ago from Mindshare. The latter's sister network MEC retained digital media in North America, and has added other markets over the past couple of years. Over the same period, Amazon's budget has more or less quadrupled to an estimated $1bn a year. As a result it is almost certainly one of Initiative's biggest global accounts, and a key client for MEC which has been nursing a series of other sizeable losses.

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