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Influential Media Buyer Mediavest Spark Takes on New Name (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 7/6/2017 Brian Steinberg
© Provided by Variety

What’s in a name? On Madison Avenue, the venerable corporate moniker Mediavest is no longer under consideration.

The influential agency, one of the industry’s first stand-alone media-buying shops, is renaming itself as part of an ongoing effort by parent Publicis Groupe to recalibrate its media assets.  Currently known as Mediavest Spark after the French ad company’s Publicis Media unit combined two separate agencies in a 2016 restructuring, the agency will be known as Spark Foundry, a name that conjures an image of creating new ideas and efforts.

“Today by unveiling Spark Foundry, we’re continuing to evolve our brand to meet marketplace needs,” said Spark Foundry U.S. CEO Chris Boothe, in a prepared statement. “By extending our startup spirit and powerhouse soul across the globe and simplifying our name, we’re sharing the heat that has fueled our growth for the past five years. This is sure to benefit our clients and talent.” .”

Spark Foundry’s current management team, which includes Boothe and chief investment officer John Muszynski, is expected to remain intact. Spark Foundry employs a staff of about 3,500 around the world.

As the Mediavest name is retired, the advertising industry will bid farewell to a piece of its history. In a different era – the one illustrated by the AMC drama “Mad Men” and its protagonist, Don Draper — media buyers were considered wonky researchers who negotiated ad prices and media placement, but had to defer to the creatives who devised clever slogans and jingles. In 2017, senior buyers can influence everything from the price of a Super Bowl commercial to advertiser support for a new NBC morning show for Megyn Kelly.

Mediavest provided an early example of the power of media buying. It grew out of a company launched in 1993 called Televest, a stand-alone shop responsible for buying TV commercials that was separated from the now defunct creative agency D’Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles. When executives added the creative agency’s media-planning function – deciding upon a strategy for the types of media vehicles in which an ad ought to appear –the broader Mediavest was born.

The unit for decades was one of the nation’s most dominant media buyers. Its executives oversaw billions of ad dollars on behalf of Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Walmart and Wendy’s. The agency helped launch Time Warner’s and CBS Corp.’s CW network in 2006, and its executives were early backers of the concept that commercials had to play off the content they supported, rather than interrupting it.

In recent years, however, some of those aforementioned clients moved to rival agencies, and the name took on some tarnish. Boothe’s team, at Spark, meanwhile, won new business from marketers like Taco Bell and LinkedIn, even though they worked for a smaller player. Publicis Media combined the upstart with the mainstay last year. In recent months, there has been new momentum.  Mediavest Spark has won accounts from KFC, Mattel, H&R Block and Viacom’s MTV.

Publicis Media, which houses Publicis’ media-buying agencies, hasn’t been shy about making big changes. In 2016, the company combined its Optimedia agency with another upstart, Blue 449. In December, the Optimedia name was scrapped in favor of the newer title.

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