Campaign's 2011 Media Network of the Year debate was dominated by the impressive pace of growth at two of the "younger" media networks. WPP's Maxus, which launched three years ago, just pipped Omnicom's PHD, created in 2005, to the title.
Maxus, from a small base, claimed to be the fastest-growing media network in 2010, with billings rising 28 per cent, according to Recma. In 2011, it more than emulated this rise with $2.5 billion in billings added from new-business wins alone.
The network undoubtedly has advantages over its more established rivals in that it has less client conflict, so can chase new business with greater freedom. It also benefits from the power of WPP and Group M in beefing up its limited scale when it comes to trading. But it seems clear that the quality of Maxus' team and its positioning also contributed a great deal to its successful 2011.
Kelly Clark, the Maxus global chief executive, has assembled a strong management team that is working to a clear brief to build a dynamic, fast-moving culture and a digital expertise that is integrated with more traditional media activity.
This approach helped Maxus to an impressive new-business record that included the capture of the $1 billion SC Johnson global media buying account, and planning on the company's home fragrance and cleaning brands, such as Pledge and Mr Muscle.
Other big gains were the $850 million Comcast account in North America - an important victory for the network as it provided a US win of some scale - and the $150 million global Barclays business, which provided its UK office with a timely lift. Smaller wins included $50 million of Bausch & Lomb business in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America, the $100 million international Karcher account, and L'Oreal in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, boosting Maxus' presence in Asia.
Local wins included Pfizer in China and Hungary, Bristol Myers-Squibb in China, Domino's Pizza in Australia and Russian Standard Vodka in Russia.
While new-business performance was Maxus' trump card in landing the award, it also improved the quality of its work for clients and won recognition at the major awards events. The network won a silver at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for its Tata Sky work in India, and its work for the technology company Hanvon in China was recognised at awards ceremonies in Asia. Its activity for Fiat and the clothing brand Arrow also impressed. While Maxus will look to create a greater volume of award-winning work in future years, it should be applauded for improving on the quality of its planning and insight so early in its history.
Maxus' other major achievement during 2011 was to build the strength and depth of its senior management team. While its senior regional chiefs such as Louis Jones, the chief executive in North America, and Neil Stewart, the chief executive of Asia-Pacific, are established faces at the network, it made strides to build a global and regional client management team based in London and hired local talent, including Kain Huang as its head of planning in China and John Miles as the North America director of investments. The UK agency, led by the chief executive, Lindsay Pattison, managed to maintain its impressive growth rate following the capture of Barclays.
Above all, Maxus, launched as WPP's fourth global media agency brand, can now claim to be a well-resourced network of 75 offices with a global team and client list that is shaping up to be as promising as those of its larger rivals. The signs are that, through talent development programmes and a forward-thinking culture, Maxus is well placed for future growth. This was the year its "challenger network" status worried and displaced larger rivals on key accounts, and it rose to the challenge laid down by the WPP chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, to become "a different type of media agency, built for the future".
The smaller of Omnicom's media networks also had a tremendous 2011, mainly based on a strong new-business record allied to a culture and ethos that saw it develop some of the more creative media ideas of the year. It is more established than Maxus, but still a relatively young media network, rolling out across Europe and Asia in 2005.
The strength of its leadership, under the worldwide chief executive, Mike Cooper, is a match for any of its larger rivals and, in 2011, it stepped up a level with the capture of new business including the $500 million Gap global media account, $400 million of SC Johnson pest control and home storage planning business, and the hotly contested $200 million global Sony Ericsson win, prevailing in a battle against WPP's MEC. It also won the global Hyatt Hotels media account.
At local level, PHD boasted 28 new-business wins in North America, including the American Red Cross, Paper Mate and Lincoln Financial Group. Among its 75 wins in Asia-Pacific were Google, HTC, Siemens and Disney. Wins in Europe included Wonga.com, eHarmony and Siemens. It also returned to the Mars roster with the capture of a brief in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
PHD boasted a 96 per cent client retention rate in 2011 and set about delivering some quality campaigns for these loyal clients. Its contribution to industry debate, with its "We Are The Future" film, provoked a YouTube user backlash and illustrated the dangers of not being prepared for a social media storm. Otherwise, PHD's planning team, led by Mark Holden, who in January moved back to London as the global strategy and planning director, is one of the strongest around.
Standout work, including the PHD Hong Kong "it's face time" campaign for Vitasoy and PHD Shanghai's "unbeatable" content for Unilever, was recognised at Cannes. The network also created lauded campaigns for the likes of Porsche and Elizabeth Arden that suggest it is more than living up to its positioning as a network that offers a "better way" for clients and its own staff.
PHD's sister company was the other network that impressed during 2011. The world's largest network by billings (according to Recma 2010 figures), OMD consolidated its reputation in 2011 - no mean feat given the difficulty of growing new business when most of its client categories were occupied.
The network landed the consolidated global Levi's account, the consolidated Sara Lee business, Tourism Australia and the global Bel cheese brief. It also captured Sony Electronics in Asia markets.
OMD was recognised at Cannes, scooping eight Lions in total, including gold for Best Use of Branded Content for Manning Gottlieb OMD's Nissan/Sony PlayStation tie-up. The network, led by its chief executive, Mainardo de Nardis, continued to invest in talent, hiring Steve Blakeman from IPG's Mediabrands as the chief executive of Asia, and Cathy Collier, previously of Crispin Porter & Bogusky Canada, as its Canada chief executive. Overall, OMD seems in rude health as it battles to retain the number-one spot in the face of competition from WPP's Mindshare.
Recent winners: Carat (2010); no winner (2009); OMD (2008); Carat (2007); Carat (2006)
March: Hires Kain Huang from Aegis Media to head planning at its agency in China.
June: Wins silver Media Lion at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity for its work for Tata Sky in India.
July: Lands a major chunk of the global Comcast media business, focused on the US and Canada. MediaCom's John Miles moves over to Maxus to fill the new US-based role of managing director, media investments.
August: Maxus captures the $1 billion global media buying contract for SC Johnson, one of the biggest media wins of the year.
September: A big month, as the agency picks up the global Barclays media account (the bulk of which is focused on the UK), opens offices in Los Angeles, Toronto and Mexico City, and lands the Pfizer media planning account in China.