Dentsu Aegis Network’s Carat has won Vodafone’s global media planning and buying account after beating the incumbent, WPP’s Group M, in a shoot-out.
Carat will take control of the British telecoms giant’s business in about 15 markets, including the UK and Germany.
Industry observers have watched the review closely because Vodafone took digital biddable media buying in-house last year and it has significantly cut the scope of its external media agency partner since then.
Carat and Dentsu Aegis Network will largely handle offline media buying, but will also play a strategic role in advising on in-sourcing digital media.
The media account has been estimated to be worth close to £400m annually – considerably less than its estimated £600m value when WPP’s MEC, now known as Wavemaker, beat Carat to the business in 2014.
Vodafone has continued to increase the role of its in-house team this year and it is thought that the value of the media buying account will drop further.
The company's original decision to in-source biddable media in June 2018 was a blow to Wavemaker and it is understood that Group M, the media buying division for all of WPP’s media agencies, led the defence of this review.
Omnicom and Publicis Groupe also took part in the process but were eliminated at an earlier stage.
Will Swayne, chief client officer, media & performance, at Dentsu Aegis Network, said: "Vodafone is a future-focused organisation, challenging old ways of doing things while pioneering the new and maximising the opportunities of the digital economy.
"We are delighted to be partnering with them, integrating the best of our agency capabilities to accelerate Vodafone’s evolution to become market-leading in digital marketing and in-house media buying."
Vodafone will still have a close relationship with WPP, since the holding group manages marketing services, including creative and PR.
Wavemaker will also continue to handle media in some markets where Vodafone operates joint ventures, such as India and the Netherlands, where WPP won Vodafone Ziggo’s account earlier this year.
Nikos Vlachopoulos, global marketing and brand director at Vodafone, oversaw the review after Sara Martins de Oliveira departed as global director of brand and media during the summer.
Oliveira, who led the in-sourcing initiative, told Campaign in March that she expects the company to in-source more media over time.
"Within five years, I think most of media will be biddable," she said at the time. "It means there is no need for middle people. You can do it yourself if you’re data-rich."
Vodafone, which appointed a new global chief executive, Nick Read, in October 2018, is under financial pressure to improve growth and cut costs.
The company recently appointed Anomaly, a part of The Stagwell Group-controlled MDC Partners, as its strategic and creative agency partner for the brand globally. WPP’s Santo previously worked on that brief.
Vodafone declined to comment immediately.