2014 Annual: Top 10 media account wins/retentions

2014 was the year, which according to industry guide The Source, saw close to a billion dollars in media billings pitch and/or move among the big 15 media agencies.

Media agencies reporter Nic Christensen recaps Mumbrella’s top 10 media account wins and retentions, along with some of the drama, disputes, intrigue, and even industry wide open letters, that went on around some of the big media pitches.

Woolies1. Carat retains Woolworths

This was without a doubt the most watched media pitch of 2014. The Woolworths media account is one of the biggest advertisers in Australia, worth some $240m, and from the moment it went to pitch a full field of contenders, including some independents, lined up for a piece of the action. 

Incumbent Carat defied expectations and managed to, despite tough odds, retain the business and is thought to have even managed to even increase the fee it was paid on the media account.

However, the pitch was not without controversy with the process dragging on, in wake of the appointment of a new chief marketer Tony Phillips mid process, and the whole industry talking about the dispute between him and head of media Helen Lecopoulos, who were thought to be at odds over the decision.

Throw in a few random grenades, including an article in The Australian, which said the contract would be for only one year and not three (which then was denied by the client), plus complaints from the agencies involved about the cost involved and money wasted in the pitch, and suggestions that the client should pay compensation, the Woolies pitch certainly earned more than its fair share of headlines.

2. Mitchells wins Federal Government

If Woolworths was the most watched pitch of 2014 the Federal Government must come a close second. Held by one of the most high profile media agencies in the sector UM, few experts would have picked the Federal Government to move at the start of the year to Mitchell and Partners.

The Melbourne based agency has been grappling with loss of its founder Harold Mitchell, who departed last year however, the major win on an account with billings of some $137m has helped the Dentsu Aegis agency gain momentum and redefine itself in the post Harold era.

CBA3. Ikon retains Commonwealth Bank

It has been a difficult year for Ikon Communications which has faced the loss of accounts, including Coca-Cola, RACV WADiageo, and most recently Goodman Fielder, but it was the decision of the agency’s foundation client the Commonwealth Bank to pitch back in July, which raised questions over the future of what was for a decade a leader in the media agency space.

The team at Ikon fought hard to retain the account with even CBA’s creative agency M&C Saatchi trying to enter the fray, before facing off in the final rounds against rivals OMD and also a separate Mediabrands offering.

Central to the win was the decision to bring back the well respected Pat Crowley, who had moved over to independent Match Media, and who led the pitch and it is understood that Ikon offered to enhance CBA in-house capacities in the digital media space as part of the proposition.

foxtellogo4. Foxtel moves to Mindshare

As recently as a month ago no one would have seen this move coming. However the revelation, in late November, that external auditors had been called in and staff at Mediacom had been fired, suspended or resigned after news emerged that the agency had been submitting inflated claims on the TV audiences its campaigns had delivered on at least three clients, has had already an impact on the industry.

Foxtel has moved its $50m media account from Mediacom to sister GroupM agency Mindshare in the wake of the scandal which has still to fully play out as the market eagerly awaits the detail of the Ernest and Young auditor report due in mid January.

5. Mediacom declines to pitch on Pacific Brands, with OMD picking up the account 

Mediacom also made headlines back in February when it announced it would not be part of the pitch for the $16m media account of Pacific Brands.

Such pronouncements are unusual from multinational media agencies with the global CEO of MediaCom Stephen Allan later confirming the agency decided not to participate in the ongoing pitch because they “can’t say yes to unprofitable business”. Omnicom agency OMD eventually picked up the business after a face off with Initiative and Huckleberry. 

lion6. Bohemia picks up Lion

The news that Lion was pitching its alcohol brands had many media agencies in market salivating over the high profile $40m media account.

Interest in the account only accelerated after incumbent ZenithOptimedia’s CEO Ian Perrin confirmed it would not participate in the review for multi-million dollar account. Perrin declined to discuss the reasons for the decision.

The final three-way pitch saw independent media agency Bohemia build on previous momentum and score a major win picking up the account which includes major beer brands such as Tooheys New, Hahn Super Dry, James Boag and Heineken.

logo-nestle-234x1817. Nestlé won by MEC

In July global multinational food and beverage company announced it would be rejigging its assignments of media agencies across its global roster invited incumbent ZenithOptimedia to pitch against GroupM agencies Mediacom and MEC.

By October the decision was made to move the $60m media account from ZO to MEC, a decision which bought the former’s lost business to more than $100m when the Lion decision is added in.

The most interesting part of the decision was not however the pitch but ZO CEO Ian Perrin’s decision to write his MEC counterpart Peter Vogel an open letter, congratulating him on the win and arguing it was an attempt to end the “vicious cycle” of bitterness which typically accompanies such business losses.

Vogel then penned his own letter in response, saying it was “refreshing” for the incumbent agency not to cry foul or spread “other misinformation about the appointment”.

The industry had mixed views on the exchange of open letters with some in the comment thread arguing Perrin’s letter was an attempt to deflect from the loss while others, including clients, congratulated the two on the publicity exchange of civilities.

Lexus8. Lexus dealers try to pitch media but decides to stay with TMS 

In many ways this was the pitch that wasn’t.

In April of 2014, it emerged that independent TMS was facing the loss of a significant part of foundation client Toyota’s media spend with dealers for car brand Lexus reviewing their media account.

The pitch drew the attention of a number of media agencies who saw the pitch as a way in to potentially securing the broader Toyota media account. While the Lexus dealers accounted for about $10m the wider account was worth more than $70m in 2012-13 according to Nielsen.

While the likes of UM, the Mediavest side of Starcom Mediavest and ZO’s offsider Publicis Media all threw there hats in the ring however the whole thing was resolved a month later with the car company announcing TMS had retained the account. Many in the industry questioned whether the dealers would be able to on their own secure media rates similar to what the parent company would be able to achieve.

9. Razor loses SBS to Naked with the buying ending up at MEC then ZO

Multicultural broadcaster SBS announced a pitch in January and by April decided they were moving their creative and media strategy to Naked Communications. 

Media agency MEC confirmed it would handle the media buying for the broadcaster, through an arrangement with Naked, with the consent of the agency’s existing client Seven West Media.

However AdNews reported in July that the MEC contract never actually signed the contract and ZenithOptimedia ending up doing the media buying for the TV network.

10. Diageo dumps Ikon for Mediavest

One of the other surprise account moves of 2014 was the decision of alcohol beverage company to move from Ikon Communications to the Publicis Group. 

In particular it was the decision of the client to appointed creative agency Leo Burnett to handle strategy on its media account with the Mediavest side of Starcom Mediavest doing the media buying.

The appointment lifted the lid on a move within the agency to split into to media agency Starcom and Mediavest, with the latter focused on servicing clients already with sister creative agencies and who were looking for a more collaborative strategic approach.


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