Alan Rutherford set to announce plans for Unilever media

Alan Rutherford, the global media director at Unilever, is meeting with his local media managers in Brussels today (Thursday) to announce his plans for the £680 million European media buying account.

Rutherford is faced with two options - he will either impose a single agency network across Europe to centralise the account or offer a recommendation for a network, allowing the media managers some input. Carat, Initiative and MindShare are all pitching for the account.

The review has been hit by rumours of dissent among some European territories, with some Unilever media managers reluctant to have centralisation imposed upon them. Germany tried to resist the review and Italy pulled out of it altogether, but no-one at Unilever was able to confirm this. Germany and Italy are with MindShare.

In the event of a centralisation, Initiative has the most to lose - with about £400 million of billings, it is the incumbent in 11 Western European markets including the UK, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. MindShare looks after Unilever in Germany and Italy.

If the account does move, the winning agency will have to move fast in order to bed the account down ahead of the start of 2005 negotiations.

In the UK, this will not present so much of a problem because one of its biggest media deals - with ITV - still has a year to run.