Initiative’s Revlon media win reminds markets of the task facing the interim regime at WPP

Any biggish piece of business departing WPP is newsworthy theses days – at least as far as stock watchers are concerned – and $550m Revlon media, which departed MediaCom in March, has found a new home at Interpublic’s Initiative.

MediaCom resigned the business, partly in frustration no doubt, as it had been appointed as Revlon’s global media agency just a year before after handling media in the US for seven years. WPP creative agency Grey still seems to be on the Revlon case although you never quite know with the iconic US fragrance company which changes CEOs with bewildering rapidity.

New incumbent is Debra Perelman (below) who should last rather longer as she’s the daughter of main shareholder Ron Perelman, an “activist” investor. These were one of the many banes of departed WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell’s life as growth ground to a halt in his last 18 months at the marcoms behemoth. Such investors usually start by slashing marketing spend and agency fees.

MediaCom can make a convincing claim to be the most successful company in the WPP fold, despite reverses including losing Volkswagen globally. It’s since won numerous substantial accounts including rival carmaker PSA (Peugeot and Citroen).

But North America has been the biggest problem for WPP recently with revenues falling. Interim bosses Mark Read and Andrew Scott badly need a few winners there and Revlon finding a new home is a reminder that they’ve been thin on the ground. At some stage Ford will presumably announce some new agency arrangements adversely affecting WPP’s bespoke Ford agency GTB.

As for Initiative and parent IPG they’re hanging in there despite being written off as major players many times over the past decade. At the moment the outlook for IPG boss Michael Roth looks rather better than for his WPP rivals. Unless that big bid from a voracious consultancy comes in – and he probably won’t mind that either.

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