Samsung’s $14bn global ad review might reveal a shortage of credible contenders

Unknown-4Samsung does, indeed, seem to be reviewing its global ad and media accounts although the company – par for the course – isn’t saying anything. Samsung sometimes takes week, even months, to approve a press release which usually means it goes out long after the event.

Anyway, the facts seem to be that CMO SP Kim, formerly head of the company’s European business, has hired consultancy R3 (which has worked for Samsung for ages) to help him find a holding company to handle the lot – all $14bn of it.

No doubt one of Kim’s tasks will be to cut this figure down a bit – Samsung’s margins have suffered recently as punters realise that the newer, pricier smartphones mainly do what the old ones did.

Kim was appointed to the new post back in December, so a review was probably inevitable anyway. Otherwise what would he do?

All this leaves us with the intriguing scenario of the world’s three biggest tech companies (if you exclude IBM, not quite sure what IBM does these days) – Apple, Microsoft and Samsung – all examining their agency arrangements. Apple hasn’t announced a formal review out of Omnicom’s TBWA although various people in the company have expressed their displeasure with some of the agency’s recent efforts.

Maybe yesterday’s announcement of strong iPhone sales, particularly in China, will buy TBWA some time. Microsoft is reviewing everything – all $1bn plus of it – although that fades rather in comparison to Samsung’s humungous budget.

This has all come at a terrible time for Omnicom and Publicis Groupe whose lumbering merger is looking increasingly likely to be derailed by tax issues. Despite brave words from John Wren and Maurice Levy, neither party is looking very attractive to mega-clients as management grapples with tax/regulators/shareholder issues while senior operating management are left with even more time to fret about their futures.

If Samsung goes anywhere as a piece it surely has to be WPP, which briefly handled most of it through a bespoke agency a decade or so ago. Omnicom has Apple (for now) and Publicis Groupe wants to merge with Omnicom, so surely it can’t pitch.

Well we’ll see. Mr Kim and R3 surely have other options apart from WPP (and some sort of relationship with long-time partner Cheil) up their sleeves. It just that at this stage it’s quite hard to see what they are.

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