`The year was good and bad’

Chiat/Day President Ira Matathia says 1992 was a difficult and frustrating year, yet an incredibly productive one for his four-year-old agency, which started off last year the same way that it finishes 1992, being named Strategy's Agency of the Year. 'We...

Chiat/Day President Ira Matathia says 1992 was a difficult and frustrating year, yet an incredibly productive one for his four-year-old agency, which started off last year the same way that it finishes 1992, being named Strategy’s Agency of the Year.

‘We got off to a good start, and we had a great new business year,’ says Matathia, citing major acquisitions last year such as Experience Canada, Microsoft, Toshiba, American Express and the Inifinti brand to add to its Nissan portfolio.

‘It was the kind of new business record that would be the envy of any agency in the western world,’ he says.

‘It all came on with considerable promise, and we’re doing work on this business that will hopefully win us next year’s Agency of the Year.

‘But the hard realities of the current environment [are] that had that new business not come along, it would have been a disastrous year.’

Matathia says the new business acquisitions of last year pretty well made up for the drop-off in business from existing clients.

Chiat/Day made its year-end projections, which were created a year ago, with no new business taken into account.

The big spending declines came from Canadian Airlines International and, to a lesser extent, Nissan, the two major accounts that have driven Chiat/Day.

Matathia says he hopes that Canadian will resolve its problems, and adds should that happen ‘it has the basis of a communications program and a really great product that can make an impact on the marketplace.’

In fact, Matathia feels that if the economic recovery takes root and there are volume increases over the share gains that some of his clients have achieved, ‘next year will be incredible.’

Beyond the work of his own agency, Matathia says this past year has seen a number of notable advertising success stories.

He points to the work of McCann-Erickson Advertising on Oreo cookies and campaigns by Ogilvy & Mather and MacLaren:Lintas on Lever Bros. brands.

‘These are examples of great work in really tough categories, and that is particularly exciting,’ Matathia says.

‘They are instances in which smart agencies showed that you really can do great work in areas, like packaged goods, where conventional wisdom says it can’t be done,’ he says. ‘And I think that’s great for the industry.’

Matathia says these kinds of advertising victories help prove the notion that ‘great advertising is not limited by the category it’s in, but by the people who are making it, and the people who are buying it.’

The challenges facing the advertising business in the coming years will be to try to rebuild faith among clients in the value of advertising.

‘The recovery notwithstanding, talk of a shift in spending from above to below the line continues and it will be tough to get that back,’ Matathia says.

‘The continuing challenge will be to sell the idea of advertising,’ he says.

Chiat/Day is beginning its fifth year in Canada.

It has grown to about $65 million in capitalized billings, and has more than 60 people with a head office in Toronto and two small offices in Calgary and Vancouver.