Blow for WPP as ZenithOptimedia wins £32m B&Q task

LONDON - In a blow to new Cordiant owner WPP, house and garden retailer B&Q has decided to shift its £32m media planning work out of Bates and into ZenithOptimedia, which already handles media buying for the company.

The news follows Publicis Groupe taking full control of ZenithOptimedia after the French ad giant paid WPP £75m for the 25% of the company owned by Cordiant Communications. Cordiant was acquired by the WPP Group last month in a £266m deal.

B&Q's advertising and media planning accounts were with Cordiant-owned Bates until the company shifted the creative work into J Walter Thompson in June, prior to WPP winning control of Cordiant. Reports say that ZenithOptimedia plans to hire at least one of the staff who worked on the B&Q planning team at Bates.

Antony Young, ZenithOptimedia's chief executive, said: "On the back of our Procter & Gamble planning win earlier this year, we are delighted to have cemented our relationship with another of the UK's major advertisers."

It is good news for Publicis Groupe, which has lost out in the deal for ZenithOptimedia and ended up paying the full £75m for the media agency, following a deal negotiated in 2001.

Maurice Levy, chairman and chief executive of Publicis, was reported to have been trying to force down the price it would pay, but was outmanoeuvred by Sir Martin Sorrell, group chief executive of WPP.

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