By DAN TURNER
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.
Don't feel too sorry for DMB & B;, though, because last month it landed a whale by winning the Gateway 2000 computer account. The underdog agency in a full-scale national review, DMB & B; acquired a client worth an estimated $90 million in annual billings.
Another agency with a new name is Davis, Ball & Colombatto Advertising Inc. in downtown L.A., which changed its name last year to DavisElen. The name change came during a down year for the agency; it dropped from $117 million in billings in 1995 to $82 million last year, going from No. 13 on the List to No. 17.
There wasn't much of an executive shuffle in the local ad industry last year, with most of the presidents and creative directors at the biggest agencies staying put.
Exceptions include Joel Hochberg, who replaced Bruce Silverman as president and CEO of Asher/Gould Advertising Inc.; Josh Weltman, who took over the job of creative director at Italia/Gal Advertising from Vincent Picardi; and Thom Miller, who replaced Hochberg as general manager of the L.A. office of Foote, Cone & Belding.
More recently, creative director Rick Colby of Lois/EJL departed to become creative director and partner at Rogge Effler & Partners, which is expected to change its name to Colby Effler pending approval from parent company Dentsu Inc.
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