WORLD: ANALYSIS - Omnicom's networks shine in cautious worldwide markets

TBWA, OMD and BBDO were all impressive in 2003, Lucy Aitken and Robin Hicks say.

Unlike its coveted titles of creative and media agency of the year for the UK, Campaign has not traditionally named a network of the year.

Yet there was no denying that, in 2003, three Omnicom networks, TBWA, BBDO and OMD, performed outstandingly in tough market conditions.

Their success was reflected in an impressive business performance for Omnicom, which reported a 14.7 per cent year-on-year rise in third-quarter revenue.

As clients exercised caution, there were few global creative reviews.

Yet TBWA picked up a $100 million account from Siemens for the global launch of its next-generation mobile phones.

In individual markets, TBWA made some noise in a year that was defined by its quietness. TBWA\Chiat\Day won the $150 million account for the mobile phone service Nextel Communications, while TBWA\London was awarded both the $40 million Abbey National account and the $25 million McCain Foods business. Meanwhile, Asia's new-business performance was strong: TBWA\Tokyo even took on Japan's advertising titans to land an $8.5 million Disney brief.

John Hunt, the chairman and executive creative director of TBWA\Hunt Lascaris, became the worldwide creative director, overseeing creative at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. TBWA's president and chief executive, Jean-Marie Dru, had recognised that the New York office should set the agenda globally and urged Hunt to work his magic in Manhattan.

TBWA had three agencies in the top ten most-awarded agencies in this year's Gunn Report: TBWA\London, TBWA\Chiat\Day (San Francisco and Los Angeles) and TBWA\Paris (Boulogne-Billancourt). As well as winning best agency in Cannes, TBWA\Paris' "rebirth" for PlayStation 2 took the Grand Prix for best poster.

Yet BBDO was the world's most-awarded network, according to The Gunn Report.

This was largely due to consistently admired work from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Almap BBDO in Sao Paulo and Colenso BBDO in Auckland.

BBDO had a busy year in terms of its existing clients, such as Guinness and Pepsi, but a slow new-business one. It did, however, innovate in a quest for new accounts: BBDO Europe set up a second-string network, BBDO launched its direct arm Proximity, in Hong Kong, and BBDO New York launched a healthcare division.

Omnicom's third creative network, DDB, scored the new-business prize of the year, however. The existing DDB client Philips centralised its global advertising account, estimated to be worth $600 million, into the network.

For Omnicom's main media network, OMD, the global McDonald's win in November will be the star on its Christmas tree. It highlighted another impressive year for the media network where global account moves were rare.

The sheer size of the account - $1.2 billion - was phenomenal, although OMD already held the account in Germany, Spain, parts of Asia and Latin America and half of the US. Yet the most significant outcome of the win was that OMD could hit back at critics who insist its network still has too many holes to win the trust of a global advertiser.

The worldwide president and chief executive, Joe Uva, has invested in plugging the gaps, combining and rebranding the media departments of TBWA, DDB and BBDO in regions such as Latin America. Consolidating its General Electric account globally and winning the $60 million global corporate account of Allianz was further evidence that OMD is now a force as a network.

OMD had an unspectacular but solid year in the US, winning Dell's digital account and Office Depot, both $200 million, but lost Kmart, worth $250 million. It was also a stable period in Asia and Latin America while consolidation of the OMD brand continues.

It was in Europe where OMD shone. The regional chief executive, Colin Gottlieb, has watched his fledgling network inch ever closer to the market leader, Carat, with wins including the $45 million planning and buying assignment for easyJet. Key hirings have proved crucial. In January, a big-hitting new management team was put in place at OMD Sweden, long the Achilles heel in OMD Nordic. The new team included Carl Wareus, formerly McDonald's Northern Europe director of marketing, and Petter Nylander, the erstwhile chief executive of Viasat Broadcasting. Just five months later, OMD Nordic scooped the pan-regional assignment for Kraft, one of the region's biggest pitches.

That OMD is still operating far from full throttle must be a terrifying prospect for its rivals. The combined global market share of Omnicom's main three creative networks is 20 per cent. OMD's is half that, so there's still huge potential. OMD has yet to launch in the world's second most populous country, India. And the logistical headache of consolidation is still some way from completion.

This was the year OMD affirmed its transition from infancy to adulthood.

The imminent outcome of the global AOL and Masterfoods USA pitches could provide further evidence of just how far it's come.

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