Dentsu Aegis wins over WPP in global AB InBev media review

WPP’s MediaCom, which looked like it was on the way back after losing £2bn Volkswagen media to Omnicom’s PHD, has taken another big hit: losing brewing giant Ab InBev’s near $1bn US account to Dentsu Aegis’ Vizeum. Dentsu Aegis has also won AB InBev in Europe, including the UK, and Africa.

MediaCom stays on the roster for Mexico and other parts of Latin America, Publicis’ Starcom wins China and Japan while roster newcomer Omnicom wins Australia, Vietnam and India. All the holding companies participated although at least one is said to have dropped out because of AB InBev’s price demands. The review was handled by MediaLink and auditor Mediapath. AB InBev currently spends about $3bn globally on media.

Dentsu Aegis is obviously the biggest winner although, on the face of it, it’s strange that it missed out in Asia, Dentsu’s home base. AB InBev may want the others to keep Dentsu Aegis on its toes.

Usually there’s an element of swings and roundabouts in these apparently unending global media reviews – driven more by procurement than anything else. One media agency executive told me that “a brilliant strategy gets you in the room – then you talk about price.”

But at WPP anyway, big changes sometimes follow such reviews. WPP’s MEC losing $4bn AT&T in the US, to Omnicom’s Hearts & Science, is thought to be one of the reasons WPP decided to merge Maxus into MEC to create new slimmed down agency Wavemaker.

AB inBev says it sought to “ensure that AB InBev selected agencies that can support the company’s business objectives across our nine geographical zones.” These include “smart centralization,” “data leadership” and “commercial synergies.”

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell won’t be best pleased to lose AB InBev, particularly at a time the marcoms giant is struggling with low or no growth. GroupM boss Kelly Clark (GroupM handles all the WPP agencies’ price negotiations) can expect to feel the heat. Logically GroupM, as the biggest such media operator, should be able to offer the lowest prices.

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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.

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