Tesco’s media account seems to have landed at WPP/GroupM’s MediaCom, always its most likely destination.
Once one of the UK’s biggest advertisers, Tesco is now reckoned to be worth ‘just’ £90m compared to the £140m it spent when CEO Terry Leahy and marketing boss Tim Mason were in their pomp.
Pomp isn’t the word you’d use for Tesco now – last week it reported a £6.4bn loss due, mainly but not entirely, to a massive property write-down. How much it spends this year depends on current CEO, former Unilever man Dave Lewis.
MediaCom pitched against incumbent Initiative and The&Partnership’s m/SIX among others. M/SIX is also powered by GroupM deals but, being only 49 per cent owned by WPP, was always likely to come second to its big brother.
For WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell (below) it means Tesco at last, after decades of trying. When Sir Frank Lowe left Lowe & Partners, the Interpublic-owned agency he founded, to set up The Red Brick Road with Tesco he chatted to Sorrell. Frank’s cigar reportedly caused some consternation in WPP’s Farm Street reception.
WPP was also on the brink of signing a deal to buy TRBR some years later (after Lowe’s departure) but that was confounded by Tesco calling the ad review that led to the creative business going to Wieden+Kennedy. Sorrell played a role in that pitch too, going in to bat for JWT. Tesco’s creative business moved to BBH in January without a pitch.
Then WPP’s production arm Hogarth made a spirited attempt to wrest that business away from Deutsche Post-owned Tag, but that didn’t work either. Tag has, in effect, become Tesco’s main agency so far this year as it winds down at W+K prior to starting at BBH in June.
Now the media account is at WPP at least. WPP’s Kinetic also handles Tesco’s £4m out of home work.
The loss of Tesco is grim news for IPG’s Initiative and, indeed, IPG’s Mediabrands operation, which also includes UM, in the UK. UM lost Microsoft outside the US a year ago, thereby removing its biggest UK account. It’s hard to see how keeping two separate media agencies in the UK is now viable for IPG. The most likely result is a merger although it might keep both names. A bid for a media independent, most likely The7Stars, is also a strong possibility.