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


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


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


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


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


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


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.’


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



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

Agencies: None

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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.