GLOBAL BRIEF: US media agencies box clever - P&G’s TV centralisation is the first sign of changing times, John Owen reports

’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.

’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

audience projections.



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

Europe.’



What’s clear, however, is that if they want to continue to do so, they

will need to add some brain to their brawn.



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