It is the media account that everyone wants to win.
Procter & Gamble has begun a pitch for its estimated £210m media business in the UK as part of a review in five markets across northern Europe.
The pitch has been on the cards since July, when Campaign first reported P&G’s plans, but its importance should not be underestimated.
This is the world’s biggest advertiser with a $7.2bn budget and a marketing history predating the soap operas of the 1930s.
P&G has the spending power to be a trendsetter, reviewing investment in Facebook last year because it "targeted too much" and demanding more transparency from the media supply chain last week because of "murky" and "fraudulent" practices.
And, like every consumer-goods manufacturer, P&G must change rapidly to cope with digital disruption in a data-driven, direct-to-the-consumer age.
P&G’s decision to hand the bulk of its American media account to Hearts & Science, an agency specially set up in the US by Omnicom, at the end of 2015 has already caused shock waves.
Four ad groups are thought to be gunning for the UK business: Publicis Groupe’s Starcom, which handles most of the UK already; WPP’s MediaCom, which works on press in the UK; Dentsu Aegis Network’s Carat, which looks after southern Europe; and Hearts & Science. All four must be desperate to win as P&G reviews very rarely.
Publicis would hate to lose its biggest UK account after missing out on P&G in the US. WPP needs to fill a hole left by AT&T in the US and Volkswagen globally. Dentsu Aegis lost a chunk of UK business last year. And Omnicom needs momentum for Hearts & Science’s UK launch.
P&G’s decision will be revealing as it will point to two wider trends. First, it must balance the demands of the global company and its leadership in local markets – an issue that Mars and Walgreens Boots Alliance have been weighing too. Second, P&G could ask its media agency to create a bespoke media and data outfit to service its needs, as Hearts & Science did.
There has been lots of talk about brands wanting agencies to bring media and creative together. But, arguably, the bigger opportunity is fusing media, data and tech, which has been the thinking behind WPP’s new big hope, M Platform.
A bespoke, joined-up offering is certainly what most big advertisers, including P&G, are asking from their agency partners. In the age of the mega-pitch, that means the solution will often lie beyond the agency
at holding-group level.