Vodafone moves £400m into Carat and out of Wavemaker

Vodafone has appointed Dentsu Aegis Network’s Carat as its global media buying agency, knocking out WPP’s Wavemaker, which pitched with parent company Group M in a final attempt to hold on to the business.

The account is currently worth around £400 million, although that may reduce over time as Vodafone continues to take work in house, a process it started last year. But it’s still a good win for Carat, because it shows the agency is comfortable working in a flexible way with big clients who are trying to do something different. Carat and Vodafone will work together in about 15 different markets.

Will Swayne, chief client officer, media and performance at Dentsu Aegis Network, said: “Vodafone is a future focused organisation, challenging old ways of doing things wihile pioneering the new and maximizing the opportunities of the digital economy. We are delighted to be partnering with them, integrating the best of our agency capabilities to accelerate Vodafone’s evolution to become market-leading in digital marketing and in-house media buying.”

Wavemaker won Vodafone in 2014 (when it was still MEC, before it merged with Maxus) but the relationship has had a protracted and uncomfortable final year; it all started unraveling last June when Vodafone took its digital biddable media planning and buying in-house.

For Wavemaker, which stills work with Vodafone on joint ventures in India and the Netherlands, it’s more bad news. The agency lost probably its biggest client, L’Oreal, in June – although WPP CEO Mark Read managed to keep it in the group by by creating a bespoke “Beauty Tech Lab” led by brand experience specialist Essence.

WPP’s Ogilvy still works on Vodafone’s creative business, although long-term brand spokesman Martin Freeman was ditched recently for the 5G “Be Unlimited” campaign, led by new brand director Maria Koutsoudakis, who joined from Marks & Spencer.

Another potential red flag for Ogilvy came in August when Vodafone appointed Anomaly “to provide strategic and creative insight for global campaigns and initiatives, to ensure they have a positive and social impact.”

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.