BUYING THE WORLD: Media is the most powerful currency in advertising, or so they say. But do any of the prominent agency and media groups really have a cohesive global media strategy? Claire Beale reports

In a media world where increasingly the maxim is ’get big, get small, or get out’, the scrabble is on to join the media super league.

In a media world where increasingly the maxim is ’get big, get

small, or get out’, the scrabble is on to join the media super

league.



Gone are the days when media buying was the grubby side of the

advertising business, peopled by men in ill-fitting polyester suits who

enjoyed long, boozy lunches of prawn cocktail and steak and chips in

between shouting at media owners.



Today, media is a global force driving the communications industry and

topping the priorities of all the major agency networks. After years of

casting media in the role of boring backroom operation, the

international agencies are finally waking with a start to the

necessities and opportunities of a strong international media

network.



But this is a market where talk is cheap. It’s only recently that some

of the biggest European media brands can claim networks that begin to

justify their hype and bluff. And scratch below the surface of many big

media-buying operations and quite a few bald patches are still

evident.



Even if you choose to believe all the bold assertions about the number

of fully operational offices, staff levels and billings, there’s plenty

to quibble over when it comes to branding. Everybody claims to have a

global network, but in most cases for ’network’ read ’a few media

dependants’, ’a few in-house media operations’ (which may use a

different letterhead if required to give the appearance of cohesion),

some ’equity-linked joint ventures’, a couple of ’loose affiliations’

and a bucketload of smoke and mirrors. To paraphrase a cliche, there are

lies, damned lies and media network statistics.



Then there’s the fact that even some of those best placed to dominate

the global media scene - such as Interpublic Group, which already has

three major international media brands - still have no coherent global

media strategy, or even anyone with responsibility for formulating

one.



Part of the problem is that the axis of power for most of the big

networks lies in the US, a market where media specialists are still

taking their first breaths and not everyone is convinced they should be

allowed to survive at all. Without pressure from their own back yards to

recognise the need for a strong media specialist operation, the powers

that be are slow to marshal their forces.



But there seems to be no doubt that client demand is already forcing the

issue. First, clients are themselves beginning to organise their

business on international lines. Yes, media planning and buying will, of

course, remain a local market issue; even in the hazy global future,

global deals with media owners will still only represent a small

proportion of a media company’s business. But clients with international

brand strategies and creative treatments will look for international

media strategies. The transfer of best practice, systems and research

across borders will become key to servicing a client’s media needs and

such requirements clearly hinge on a unified media network.



Secondly, the cost of running a media planning and buying operation is

escalating as the media market becomes more complex. As advertising

media proliferate, digital TV promises hundreds of new TV channels, the

Internet takes off and niche media make targeting increasingly

difficult, the resources required for effective media planning and

buying will impose a huge financial burden on even the biggest media

companies. Without scale, systems and expertise, the media task could

become impossible. There’s no market for the middle ground.



What’s more, big boy status is a scarce commodity amid predictions that

the media market of the 21st century will be dominated by a handful of

super powers. Size and scale are becoming prerequisites and, within a

few years, consolidation is expected to reduce the number of major

players to just five or six.



There are 17 major international agency networks: Ammirati Puris Lintas,

BBDO, the BDDP and GGT groups, DDB, Bates Dorland, Bozell/True North,

Euro RSCG, Grey, J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett, MacManus,

McCann-Erickson, Ogilvy & Mather, Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi, the Lowe

group and Young & Rubicam. If these networks want to retain a media

franchise and ensure survival by making it to the top five, then mergers

and joint ventures are a must.



And, if you bear in mind the fact that media companies are currently

valued up to 30 times earnings, compared with about half that for

creative agencies, the value of the media asset is apparent.



So, we’re all agreed. In theory, global is where it’s at. But what about

the practice? The late 90s clearly represent a time of change in the

media industry and few agencies have a clear vision of where they’re

going and how to get there.



The sophistication of the European media specialist market means that

the European brands, in many cases, have a head start. Zenith, the

granddaddy of them all, may not be the biggest operation in Europe but

its claims to international status have more validity than those of most

competitors. Zenith not only set the pace in the UK market, but is now

doing the same in the US, although the big nut has yet to be truly

cracked.



Europe’s biggest media independent, Carat, still has little presence

outside Europe, while the rival CIA Group has a long way to go before it

reaches its professed ambition to be in the top five media companies

worldwide. However, the vision and strategy of these companies are light

years ahead of agencies with more robust global credentials.



Even so, Zenith’s worldwide head, John Perriss, believes that the

independent media agencies will not survive as independents in the

contracted media market of the future. ’They may remain autonomous but,

on a global basis, they’ll be swallowed up by the agency networks,’

Perriss predicts.



Those agency networks will certainly need all the help they can get.



WPP, for example, is only now starting on the road to establishing its

own global media brand, MindShare, and much politicking and pain lies

ahead - as it does for all agencies planning to merge media operations

under a single banner. Significantly, WPP recently acquired a stake in

CIA and is keen to work with the media independent in relevant

markets.



In this new era of oligopoly, old rivalries between agencies will have

to be buried (in the media arena at least) in order to retain a media

offering. Clients, too, will have to get used to the fact that if they

want the best resource and service, they may have to share at least some

of that with their competitors.



And as Chris Ingram, the chairman of CIA, points out: ’Obtaining the

scale is only the first step. There’s no point ending up big and

musclebound if quality is compromised.’



MAJOR GROUPS AND THEIR GLOBAL MEDIA INTERESTS



How is their global media strategy? * confused, ** manoeuvring, ***

focused.



Aegis***



Media baron: Crispin Davis, group chief executive, based in London



Agencies: None



Brands: The umbrella media brand is Carat, with 58 offices in 28

countries



Key clients: Disney, Volkswagen, Reckitt & Colman, Philips



Media strategy: Aegis would be a suitable takeover target or acquirer in

its drive to become a global player. A tie-up with an agency network

would consolidate its position as the biggest media operation in Europe

while giving it volume in other markets



Bozell/True North*



Media baron: Chuck Peebler, president of BJK&E, based in New York



Agencies: FCB, Bozell Worldwide



Brands: BJK&E Media, with 42 offices in 23 countries, and Optimedia, a

partnership with Publicis



Key clients: Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, Unisys, Samsung, Nortel



Media strategy: The recent deal between Bozell and True North means that

BJK&E Media and the FCB media currently handled by Optimedia are likely

to be merged into a single global operation



CIA Group**



Media baron: Chris Ingram, the London-based chairman



Agencies: None, though CIA is 14 per cent owned by WPP



Brands: CIA Medianetwork, with 106 equity-linked and affiliate offices

in 74 countries, plus joint ventures



Key clients: Shell, Visa, Microsoft, DHL, Calvin Klein



Media strategy: CIA is one of the biggest media brands in Europe, but

has no real presence in the US and a patchy network in the Far East. CIA

is in talks with agency networks keen to supplement their media presence

while offering CIA access to new territories



Cordiant**



Media baron: John Perriss, chief executive of Zenith Media Worldwide,

based in London



Agencies: Bates, Saatchi & Saatchi



Brands: Zenith Media, which will be jointly owned by the two agency

networks when Cordiant demerges in December. Zenith has 43 offices in 23

countries



Key clients: P&G, Mars, Bristol Myers and Hewlett Packard



Media strategy: With Zenith soon to be a joint venture between two rival

agency networks, both Bates and Saatchis could consider a media option

which would give them 100 per cent control and profits. But the demerger

also frees Zenith to acquire or be acquired



BDDP/GGT*



Media baron: None



Agencies: The BDDP network and the GGT group



Brands: Media Solutions, a joint venture with CIA Group in the UK,

Advanswers in the US, SEO Achat D’Espace in France



Key clients: Hoover/Candy, Blockbuster Video, Nationwide



Media strategy: GGT’s merger with BDDP means the joint venture with CIA

is being re-examined. A more coherent global media brand is needed



Grey*



Media baron: Jim Bell, managing director of MediaCom Worldwide, based in

New York



Agencies: Grey Advertising



Brands: MediaCom, 46 offices in 44 countries



Key clients: P&G, Mars, Smithkline Beecham, BP



Media strategy: MediaCom is primarily a European brand but is rolling

out around the world. An alliance with another agency or media network

to create a larger media operation is not ruled out



Havas*



Media baron: Didier Colmet Daage, president of media operations at

Havas, based in Paris



Agencies: Euro RSCG, WCRS



Brands: Mediapolis, a joint venture with Y&R, with 12 offices in 12

European countries



Key clients: Peugeot Citroen, Colgate Palmolive, Ericsson, Intel,

Microsoft, Procter & Gamble



Media strategy: With Mediapolis’s partner agency, Y&R, rumoured to be

seeking another alliance, Havas will have to reconsider the future of

Mediapolis - can it sustain its own media operation?



Interpublic Group**



Media baron: Marie Jose Forissier at Initiative Media Worldwide based in

Paris, Ira Carlin at McCann-Erickson in New York, Michael Kassan at

Western in Los Angeles



Agencies: Ammirati Puris Lintas, McCann-Erickson, Lowe Group



Brands: Initiative Media (35 offices in 33 countries), Universal McCann

(44 offices in 28 European countries), Western International (45 offices

in five countries) Key clients: Unilever, Coca-Cola, Opel/Vauxhall



Media strategy: Western is the biggest media independent in the US and

was brought over to Europe as the name for a joint venture between

Initiative (Lintas’s media brand) and the Lowes media department.



IPG is expected to combine resource from its three brands to lever its

position as a global media player



Leo Burnett*



Media baron: Jack Klues, the executive vice-president of worldwide media

services, based in Chicago



Agencies: Privately owned full-service agency, Leo Burnett



Brands: None



Key clients: McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Fiat



Media strategy: Burnetts has been left behind in the race to establish a

media brand, though recently it hived off its media department in the

US. Even a global decision to take its media into a separate operation

would not be enough to make Burnetts a player; a merger or acquisition

must be considered



MacManus**



Media baron: Mike Moore, DMB&B’s worldwide media director, based in New

York



Agencies: DMB&B



Brands: MediaVest, eight offices in six countries



Key clients: Procter & Gamble, Mars, Fiat



Media strategy: MediaVest is being rolled out globally but has

acknowledged the need to achieve a greater presence through merger,

joint venture or acquisition and is talking to other agency

networks.



Omnicom**



Media barons: Bruce Crawford at Omnicom in New York, Viviane Prat at

Optimum Media Direction in Paris



Agencies:DDB, TBWA, BBDO



Brands: Optimum Media Direction, the umbrella media brand in Europe



Key clients: Pepsi, Gillette, Braun, Sony



Media strategy: Combining the resources and volume of the individual

brands is on the agenda, though in mature markets individual brand

positioning is likely to be maintained



Publicis**



Media baron: Simon Lloyd, chairman, Optimedia International



Agencies: Publicis Brands: Optimedia, a joint venture with FCB, with 17

offices in 17 countries



Key clients: BA, Allied Domecq, Renault, Ralph Lauren



Media strategy: Optimedia is developing a global network but, with FCB

ultimately set to disentangle itself from the Optimedia operation,

affiliations with other agencies in some markets look likely



Young & Rubicam*



Media baron: ’There was one, but they left and haven’t been

replaced’



Agencies: Y&R



Brands: A joint stake in Mediapolis, the European media network co-owned

by the Havas agency, Euro RSCG, which has 12 offices in 12 countries



Key clients: Colgate Palmolive, Ericsson, UIP, Pirelli



Media strategy: Y&R is looking at developing its own media brand, which

may replace Mediapolis, and has held talks with a number of parties

including CIA



WPP**



Media baron: Dominic Proctor, the London-based chief executive of

MindShare



Agencies: J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, Conquest



Brands: MindShare, which has five offices in five Asia Pacific

countries, and a 14 per cent stake in CIA Group Key clients: Kodak,

Nestle Rowntree, Tyco Toys, Ford



Media strategy: The Network, O&M’s media offering, is being merged with

JWT’s media department under the new banner, MindShare, which aims to

become a global network.



A working relationship with CIA is also mooted.



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