BUYING THE WORLD: The race to become the first truly international media agency is starting to hot up. Claire Beale looks at how the leading contenders are shaping up in the battle to dominate the industry

It doesn’t seem so long ago that agency proclamations about global media networks were delivered with fingers firmly crossed, shared letterheads were the closest many came to consistent branding and geographical coverage had more holes than a pair of fish-nets.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that agency proclamations about global

media networks were delivered with fingers firmly crossed, shared

letterheads were the closest many came to consistent branding and

geographical coverage had more holes than a pair of fish-nets.

It doesn’t seem so long ago because it isn’t. Rewind two years to the

last major feature Campaign compiled on the global media operations and

not only was it virtually impossible to pinpoint the facts about each

network, but the so-called facts themselves were often a little, erm,

open to interpretation.

But two years is clearly a long time on the international media


Now it seems that the need for a credible international media brand has

been embraced at the very top of many communications groups.

The intervening months have seen the emergence of several new brands,

the death of many in-house media operations and a global emphasis on

media, from agencies and clients alike. The media networks are

positioning themselves ever closer to the centre of the communications

decision-making process and edging further into the clients’


Such advances are being driven, in part, by the media superbrands which

have emerged in the past two years. MindShare, for example, launched in

1998 with a positioning which promised a communications solution tapping

into the resources of its WPP parent. Although the agency has a long way

to go before it truly begins to deliver on this promise (not least

because it is still far from being a truly global operation - there is

still no MindShare in the US), it has established an enviable position

which other networks are now working to. Western Initiative Media and

the Media Edge have also emerged to make serious in-roads in taking

media upstream and into the heartland of a broad spectrum of


The biggest of the new arrivals is Optimum Media Direction, which

combines the forces of the TBWA, BBDO and DDB networks. Its sheer size

gives OMD a ready-made positioning, but it has some way to go before it

enjoys the cohesive veneer crafted by some of its rivals.

The fledgling merger between Starcom and MediaVest is also a contender

for the title of the biggest media network and aims to have a more

unified brand than OMD, though there will not be a full merger in some

markets such as the US.

Alongside such newcomers, the old European media powerhouses have had to

work hard to keep pace. Carat has focused on strategic communications

and market research to spearhead its assault on the US, where, despite

still lacking the volume of many of its rivals, it has helped set the

agenda for a more sophisticated approach to media. Zenith Media, which

has been in the US since 1995, has one of the most consistent

international media operations. Yet it seems that the new brands are

making all the noise about a broad strategic communications service, and

Zenith needs to emphasise an international offering beyond media

planning and buying to stay ahead.

Meanwhile, CIA Medianetwork, which has struggled in several European

markets over the past two years, has yet to make a real impression in

the US and looks unlikely to claim true international status without an

affiliation with another communications network. One European media

force looking forward to a brighter future, however, is Media Planning,

which now embraces the old Mediapolis. Although the merged agency is

still in its inception phase it has high ambitions and a dedication to

the media business.

But the global media axis has undoubtedly shifted across the Atlantic

over the past two years, fuelled by the growing independence of media in

the American marketplace. So Universal McCann can finally look forward

to consistent international branding with the news that all in-house

media departments will now adopt the Universal name and, having reaped

the rewards of media independence US-style, Leo Burnett is now beginning

to export its Starcom media brand into other territories.

Nevertheless, the US paymasters of networks such as MediaCom and

Optimedia have been slow to fully grasp the media nettle. MediaCom and

Optimedia continue to be strong operations in Europe (particularly in

Germany and the UK) but display little of the strategic global vision

that has marked out newer networks. True North, on the other hand, has

not even begun to make in-roads into the creation of an international

media brand following the merger of FCB with Bozell Worldwide.

Any agency that has spent the last two years standing still has

inevitably taken a step backwards in the race to dominate the global

media stage.

But no media agency can yet claim a truly global operation with real

homogeneity, the export of best practice and consistent standards across

borders. There’s much work still to be done and it will take more than

the next two years to get there.


Big may be beautiful but it’s not necessarily best. At least not yet.

Ranking the international media networks purely on size would catapult

OMD to the top of any chart, but the company still faces issues over

unity and control - it has yet to secure the true independence from its

sister creative agencies that will really fire the OMD proposition.

In terms of autonomy, strategic positioning and established network

credentials, Western Initiative Media has the edge , though the branding

of its two constituent parts - Initiative Media and Western

International Media - is changing.

In the long term, MindShare has the potential to be a world leader in

broad strategic communications and already has the branding, positioning

and group resource which set it apart from many rivals. But the company

is still in its development phase and has yet to make its US debut.

The new alliance between Starcom, MediaVest and Dentsu is sure to create

a major global media force. The might must be harnessed, though by unity

and single-mindedness; there’s no room for politics if the new network

is to realise its full potential.

The years of network development and international management experience

of Carat and Zenith give both companies a real head start on their

rivals currently battling against agency politics and international


For the future Carat needs a stronger presence in the US while Zenith

still has issues of size and positioning outside the UK.

The Media Edge has a neat positioning as the media umbrella which spans

all Young & Rubicam group companies, but the agency has a series of

alliances covering media buying in Europe which dilute its unified


For MediaCom and Optimedia a real presence in the US remains a pressing

concern. CIA Medianetwork has had a torrid time in its key UK and

Italian markets and needs an alliance to give it a global foundation and

shore up volume.

1      Western Initiative Media

2      Carat

3      MindShare

4      The Media Edge

5      Zenith Media

6      Optimum Media Direction

7      Starcom/MediaVest

8      MediaCom

9      Optimedia

10     CIA Medianetwork


(1) Chris Ingram - CIA Medianetwork

Although CIA Medianetwork is still predominantly European and has

experienced problems in some key markets, no other media man can claim

to have built a viable network from scratch. Ingram might seem a

surprising choice for the top slot, but he is the architect of a network

- whatever its current problems - rather than a rebrander and reshaper

of in-house media departments.

(2) Larry Lamatina - Western Initiative Media

The architect of one of the first US media titans and inheritor of the

formidable Initiative network, Lamatina runs one of the world’s most

impressive media brands.

(3) John Perriss - Zenith Media

Zenith is the original media network and where Perriss has led, others

have followed. He has driven the Zenith brand around the world, creating

one of the most coherent international networks.

(4) Jack Klues - Starcom

Klues launched Starcom when media independence was far from fashionable

in the US and drove the idea to the point of global roll out.

(5) Paul Woolmington - The Media Edge

Woolmington has re-invented the lacklustre Young & Rubicam media

operation as a holistic global brand name which claims a powerful

strategic positioning.

(6) Daryl Simm - Optimum Media Direction

OMD’s network is far from finished, but Simm has provided a single focal

point for the Omnicom media brands with the potential to be a world


(7) Dominic Proctor - MindShare

Proctor has established the MindShare name in key markets outside the

US. While he now reports to its chief executive, Irwin Gotlieb, Proctor

deserves the credit for the network’s launch.

(8) Alec Gerster - MediaCom

Gerster has steered a slow but steady course for MediaCom, finally

tackling the US market last year and driving acquisitions to strengthen

the brand in key markets such as the UK.

(9) Leopoldo Rodes Castagne Media Planning

In tying up with Mediapolis, Rodes Castagne has brought Media

Planning to the world stage, creating a new media force but one which

still has much work to do.

(10) Simon Lloyd - Optimedia

Lloyd has created a respectable and solid European media network but has

been slow to roll out the brand around the rest of the world.


Rank Brand             Parent company              Billings dollars bn

                                          Total      US   Europe    Rest

1    MindShare         WPP                 16.5     5.2      4.8     6.5

2    Universal McCann  McCann-Erickson     13.2     4.5      5.6     1.7

3    Optimum Media

     Direction         Omnicom             11.9     3.7      6.0     2.2

4    Western

     Initiative Media  Interpublic Group   11.3     4.6      4.9     1.8

5=   MediaCom          Grey Advertising    10.1     2.1      7.3     0.7

5=   The Media Edge    Young & Rubicam     10.1     3.9      3.6     2.6

7    Carat             Aegis                8.6     0.8      7.6     0.2

8    Starcom           BDM                  8.5     3.7      2.0     2.8

9    MediaVest         BDM                  8.0     3.8      2.5     1.7

10   TN Media          True North           7.7     4.3      1.4     2.0

11   Zenith Media      Cordiant, Saatchi

                       & Saatchi            6.1     2.2      2.7     1.2

12   Optimedia         Publicis             5.6     1.2      3.6     0.8

13   CIA Medianetwork  Tempus               4.8     0.5      4.0     0.3

14   Media Planning    Media Planning/

                       Havas                4.7     1.3      3.1     0.3

Rank Brand             Parent company     No of  Total   Branded offices

                                         staff offices   US Europe  Rest

1    MindShare         WPP                2300      80    0     27    15

2    Universal McCann  McCann-Erickson    2430     186    9     26    15

3    Optimum Media

     Direction         Omnicom            3000      56    5     31    20

4    Western

     Initiative Media  Interpublic Group  2980      64   25     26    13

5=   MediaCom          Grey Advertising   1666      88    4     34    24

5=   The Media Edge    Young & Rubicam    1782      91   14     29    48

7    Carat             Aegis              2967      76   11     57     8

8    Starcom           BDM                1448      75    7     35    33

9    MediaVest         BDM                1230      75    5     16    15

10   TN Media          True North         1243      84    6      0     3

11   Zenith Media      Cordiant, Saatchi

                       & Saatchi          1402      54    9     30    15

12   Optimedia         Publicis            744      90    0     20    13

13   CIA Medianetwork  Tempus             1500      84    2     27     5

14   Media Planning    Media Planning/

                       Havas              1228      15    3      9     3

Rank Brand             Parent company   Total   Major clients


                                    in 5-plus


1    MindShare         WPP                 25   Ford, Kimberly-Clark,

                                                IBM, Nestle, Unilever,


2    Universal McCann  McCann-Erickson     71   Reckitt & Colman, Glaxo

                                                Wellcome, General Motors

3    Optimum Media

     Direction         Omnicom             47   Compaq, Sara Lee, Mars,

                                                Pepsi, Hasbro

4    Western

     Initiative Media  Interpublic Group   26   Unilever, Calvin Klein,

                                                Nestle, Sega, Mobil

5=   MediaCom          Grey Advertising    21   BAT, Procter & Gamble,

                                                Mars, Microsoft

5=   The Media Edge    Young & Rubicam     44   Colgate Palmolive,

                                                Ericsson, Philip Morris,


7    Carat             Aegis                8   Philips, Coca-Cola, EMI,

                                                Disney, Chanel

8    Starcom           BDM                 16   Kellogg, McDonald’s,

                                                Fiat, Procter & Gamble

9    MediaVest         BDM                 14   Fiat, Masterfoods,

                                                Procter & Gamble, Mars

10   TN Media          True North          16   Chrysler, Nabisco,

                                                Bristol Myers Squibb,


11   Zenith Media      Cordiant, Saatchi

                       & Saatchi           21   BAT, Mars, Procter &

                                                Gamble, Hewlett Packard

12   Optimedia         Publicis            11   British Airways,

                                                Renault, SC Johnson,

                                                L’Oreal, Nestle

13   CIA Medianetwork  Tempus              26   Daewoo, Beiersdorf,

                                                Henkel, Novarts,


14   Media Planning    Media Planning/

                       Havas               19   Air France, Intel,

                                                Colgate Palmolive,

                                                Kraft, Philips


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