Now Unilever decides to review $6bn global media

Media agencies working for Unilever are going to have a rather busier Christmas than they anticipated as the packaged goods giant has decided on another media review just two years after it consolidated North America and Europe into WPP’s Mindshare and the rest into Omnicom’s PHD.

Both incumbents will pitch along with a few lucky others, presumably including biggest independent Carat but not Publicis Groupe’s Starcom and ZenithOptimedia because of the Procter & Gamble connection.

The review is also likely to involve WPP’s GroupM which appears to handle most of the big negotiations for WPP media agencies these days.The Unilever move follows hard on the heels of General Motors’ $3bn global media review which is thought to have been won by Carat.

As with most of these exercises, the announcement of the review follows a client rejig, in this case Luis Di Como (pictured) succeeding Laura Klauberg as Unilever’s media boss back in January. But cost is likely to be another factor, Unilever has ramped up its marketing spend in recent years but that usually means seeking lower fees from the spending agencies. Unilver execs, headed by CMO Keith Weed, will also be aware that media planning and buying is reckoned to be the most profitable area of business for the big marcoms companies these days, a perception guaranteed to make clients uneasy.

WPP, the biggest marcoms company by sales, and Omnicom, the second-largest and most profitable, will obviously fight hard to keep such a prestige and valuable (whatever the haggling over costs) account. WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell is probably working on the formation of ‘Team Unilever Media’ even as we write.

If Carat does pitch, this will be great opportunity for it to show that there is a future for independent media agencies unattached to one of the big full service operators. Barely a year ago Carat was thought to be on the takeover hit list for one of the marcoms mob. Now it has the chance to demonstrate that the world’s big advertisers actually prefer the idea of a global media-only specialist.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.