If ever there was a story to get the new year off to an
agenda-setting bang, it was the news that Carat has won the dollars 200
million US media business for Pfizer.
The implications for the US market are well rehearsed in this week’s
Media Forum. In awarding what is one of the US’s bigger media accounts
to a genuine media independent, Pfizer’s decision is something of a
The manoeuvre also helps drive home the inevitability of the standalone
media operation in the US.
Of course, the media specialist is not new in the States, and the big
agency groups are slowly waking up to the idea of spinning off their
media operations into branded units. Yet rarely does a US advertiser of
real size take full advantage of this independence to hand its media
assignment to a media operation unassociated with its creative agency of
But perhaps the most significant thing about the Carat coup is the
implication for its rivals outside the US. As the strongest of the
European networks, taking roughly 15 per cent of the European media
market, Carat has dominated media on this side of the Atlantic. Until
recently, though, Carat had little claim to territories beyond Europe,
providing some comfort to rivals with US parentage.
Yet while those US parents have dragged their feet on marshalling their
global media forces - much to the frustration of their European media
executives - Carat has now invaded their domestic playpen. It can now
claim top ten status in the US at a time when its European counterparts
are still battling against the lethargy and naivety of their US
But Carat’s triumph could hold some real benefits for European media
players. For all those US giants who have long dismissed both the idea
of media independents and the threat of the European proponents, the
Pfizer decision should at least rattle the skeletons in some cupboards.
And that can only be good news for their European media outposts.
It is surely only a matter of time before Carat is pitching for an
advertiser’s business on both sides of the Atlantic. And with the might
of its European credentials behind it, that would make Carat a
formidable opponent. Perhaps this will prompt the American agencies to
finally try to get their international media operations in order. And
that doesn’t just entail sticking flags on a map.
The Pfizer win suggests strongly that Carat’s US operation has the
professionalism that has characterised its European operations. But
Carat’s real trump card is its consistency of brand, not only in terms
of systems and service, but also identity. While most of the big
US-owned European media networks have to content themselves with a
threadbare international network hampered by US executives, whose grasp
of media as a business wouldn’t do justice to a junior in a UK agency,
Carat is forging a coherent global proposition.