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By DAN TURNER

Staff Reporter

Many of L.A.'s biggest advertising agencies reported healthy gains in billings between 1995 and 1996, led by Venice powerhouse TBWA Chiat/Day Inc., which picked up nearly $200 million in new accounts.

Chiat/Day reported $520 million in billings in 1996 and $705 million last year.

Many of the biggest agencies got bigger last year. Second-place Saatchi & Saatchi Pacific reported a jump from $480 million in 1995 to $585 million in 1996. Rubin Postaer & Associates, L.A.'s third-biggest agency, grew from $365 million in billings to $426 million.

But the biggest story in L.A. advertising last year was that of Suissa Miller Advertising Inc. It virtually doubled in size last fall after winning the Acura account worth an estimated $120 million in billings from Fathom/Los Angeles.

That gain doesn't show up on this year's List because those revenues won't be counted until 1997. But expect Suissa Miller to jump several places on next year's List.

The huge account win means that many local advertising executives have found new homes at Suissa Miller. The agency reported 55 employees in 1995 and now has 132.

Suissa Miller's gain was Fathom's loss. The agency didn't respond to the Business Journal's survey, but it is believed to have lost several other clients last year in addition to Acura. Advertising sources and trade magazines say that the agency has only one account of substance left, Oracle Corp., whose billings are estimated at about $20 million.

As a result, Fathom which under former name Ketchum Los Angeles was the No. 6 agency on last year's List has dropped off entirely.

Agencies making a first appearance on this year's List include Ground Zero Advertising, which achieved $35 million in billings in 1996 after only two years in business. Ground Zero, like Suissa Miller, is likely to jump several places by the time next year's List comes out. Now listed at No. 23, the agency's billings have jumped to around $55 million in the last few months, according to sources.

Losing ground on the List was D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles Inc., which flirted with the moniker Highway One Communications before changing back to its old name last year. The agency dropped from No. 9 on last year's List to No. 13 this year, going from $156 million in billings to $105 million.

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