Media Perspective: MindShare's cereal headache proves conflict isstill taboo

At the cricket last week, there was a chap called Felix sitting behind us. He was the sort of old goat who's never happy - even when it's a beautiful day and England are about to win the Ashes.

All day, he moaned about everything, from the crowd's rowdiness and England's aggressive batting style to the queues for the facilities. He was only content when stuffing down endless baguettes from the food vans.

I have no evidence for it, and the fact that we were sitting in the cheap seats works against the theory, but he could have been a marketing director at a major multinational. A specialist at finding fault and keeping people on their toes, he would have fitted right in at any number of corporations.

Last week, two such corporations, France's Peugeot-Citroen, more correctly known as PSA, and the American Kellogg, announced the results of long-anticipated media agency reviews. PSA's swept across Europe, dropping Media Planning Group in France and appointing them in Germany, with OMD UK holding on to the UK business. The Kellogg review, which saw UK agencies pitch in isolation, also saw the incumbent, in this case MindShare, hold on to the business.

A pitch against Starcom and Carat, Kellogg incumbents in other markets, ended in MindShare's triumph despite apparently getting off to a slow start in the pitch. Cue allegations that the agency only won the business after the personal intervention of the WPP boss, Sir Martin Sorrell - surely a man you'd never find skipping work for a second bowl of Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes.

MindShare sources are aggrieved, arguing that they won the business off their own bat. For what it's worth, there may be some truth in what the agency says. Even if Sir Martin did get in touch, clients are only partially convinced by arse-kissing from very important people - they also want to believe the evidence of their own eyes and receive some guarantees on price and quality.

Regardless of this, the Kellogg win has given MindShare some sort of headache because of the conflict caused by its capture earlier this year of Nestle's Cereal Partners business. Nestle seems to have got the hump and says that it has assurances from MindShare that the Kellogg account will now be relocated elsewhere within WPP's Group M. Evidence that clients still can't cope with big networks handling conflicting accounts. But at least WPP's Group M set-up allows it to accomodate this circumstance.

As for Kellogg, it has been with MindShare for decades, if you count the inherited relationship from J. Walter Thompson's media department, and saw no need to change this. However, the relationship with Cereal Partners looks like it's causing some changes to the status quo.

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