’We congratulate all of the agencies and welcome Televest to this
new assignment.’ The words of Robert L. Wehling, senior vice-president
at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati last week, were the oddest
congratulation imaginable for Leo Burnett, Zenith Media and Grey. They
signified that Televest had just beaten them to the largest piece of
centralised media business ever put up for grabs in the US - the dollars
1.2 billion P&G TV buying account.
Many believe that the P&G move will be a watershed in the American media
market, the precursor to a round of media centralisations - or AORs as
the Americans say - akin to those that lit up the UK media buying
industry in the early 90s.
John Perriss, Zenith’s worldwide chairman, is rubbing his hands at the
prospect. But, he believes, the key to success will change. Rather than
pure buying clout, it will be an investment in the sort of optimisation
systems that are common in Europe but which, he claims, were untried in
the US until Zenith introduced its own in October last year. Put simply,
optimisers use live audience data to enable buyers to target far more
accurately than the traditional American method, based on historical
The use of live data means that implementational planning - the choice
of channel and day part - becomes the job of the buyer, rather than the
planner. P&G will be the first blue-chip advertiser in the US to make
this shift to the European model. Others will follow, Perriss says, and
Zenith is ready for them.
But Paul Woolmington, the worldwide head of media strategy at Ammirati
Puris Lintas in New York, is not so sure. ’There won’t be ten AORs on
the back of P&G,’ he says. ’The US market is getting both more
sophisticated and more competitive. In the US, the big boys dominate
already. But there were more multiple agency arrangements in
What’s clear, however, is that if they want to continue to do so, they
will need to add some brain to their brawn.