Carat wins Media Network of the Year

Carat is Campaign’s Media Network of the Year for the second year in succession, after combining a strong new-business year with several initiatives and key appointments that have strengthened its proposition.

Philips... retained Carat
Philips... retained Carat
The Aegis-owned network's positioning, of being "consumer-centric and digitally ahead", seems to be paying dividends as it continues to land new business and gain extra billings from existing clients.

Carat built on the new-business success it achieved in 2006 this year, although the network did admit that it fully expected 2007 to be a year of consolidation following the large account gains in the previous 12 months.

That said, in a relatively dry year for international pitches, it was successful in two of the largest. First, Carat landed Johnson & Johnson's $430 million EMEA business, a major feat since it involved showing consistency and quality in every local market, while its second major win was the capture of the $400 million global Mattel business (not including the US) from MindShare.

Carat also proved adept at keeping business in global pitches. It retained its $600 million global Philips business after a final shoot-out with Mediaedge:cia. Philips' new management team praised Carat for a "unified sense of direction" in helping it to achieve "customer-orientation in the new media market".

The network supplemented its global pitch activity with some pretty impressive regional triumphs. It captured the retailer H&M's business across Eastern Europe and the ABN Amro account in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, proving that it can compete for network business in the Asia region.

There were also some good wins in local markets, including Carlsberg and Panasonic in China, Outback Steakhouse in the US and Birds Eye in the UK. All this added up to new business gains well in excess of $1.5 billion.

The network also invested in hiring senior talent. Its core management team, led by the global chief executive, Mainardo de Nardis, remained stable. De Nardis is ably supported by one of the strongest regional management teams in media, with Jerry Buhlmann continuing to run the EMEA region, David Verklin heading operations in the Americas, and Patrick Stahle in Asia. It added to this team with seven senior appointments, which put the focus on relationships with international clients such as Renault and Diageo. These signings included three global client presidents (David Indo, Martyn Rattle and Susannah Outfin), and international client heads in the US, Asia, and for the digital network Isobar.

This injection of strength at the centre of the network goes a long way to addressing concerns that Carat was too decentralised.

In addition, Carat started a programme of integrating its businesses by merging Carat in the US with its digital business Carat Fusion, a sign Carat sees the future of communications as fully integrated. David Pullan, the former Emap executive, has been hired as the president of a new global solutions board to ensure Carat and its parent Aegis Media are structuring their businesses to suit client needs.

Carat continues to boast digital expertise in the shape of Isobar, which links its digital businesses in key markets, and created some excellent ideas for the likes of Adidas. The presence of Isobar, led by the chief executive, Nigel Morris (right, bottom), at pitches has helped the network win and retain new business, and is helping Carat meet client needs.

Carat also continued to invest in areas such as communications planning and sports and entertainment marketing. It added to its communications planning teams in China and the US and signed Alex Nieroth to the role of global head of sports and entertainment.

Acquisitions made by its parent company, Aegis, should also help Carat prepare for the future. These included the web design company Marvellous Media in the UK, the digital agency Trigger in South Africa and the international ad serving business Bluestreak.

Carat's new-business successes, pioneering product offering, good work for clients and a strong management team all helped contribute to revenue growth at Aegis Media of 9.8 per cent, to leave Carat in great shape.

Mediaedge:cia, the WPP-owned network, pushed Carat close for the title of Media Network of the Year. It boasted a solid new-business record, combined with considerable investments in talent and in its communications planning offering.

In June, MEC triumphed in the global Paramount Home Entertainment and Theatrical pitch, which brought in $250 million in billings. It also won the $25 million Barclays Capital pitch. This was more than supported by some massive domestic wins - prominent among them the giant, consolidated $2.3 billion AT&T account in North America. It also landed the $140 million Monster.com account in North America, having already worked on the brand across Europe. Other new-business successes included the pan-European Olympus account. It landed Michelin and a chunk of the Chrysler business in China.

MEC made great strides strengthening its offering to clients in 2007. It launched three new-business units: MEC Bravo, a division dedicated to helping clients engage with Hispanic customers; MEC Retail, a consultancy in the EMEA region dedicated to using instore communications; and MEC Access, a unit that brings together MEC's expertise in sports, entertainment and cause marketing.

This will help build the diversity of MEC's work, which already benefits from a strong digital unit in MEC Interaction. Its outstanding work included activity for Xerox across Europe, Wilkinson Sword in France, Henkel in India and Rémy Martin in China. And MEC made some serious investment in key talent. In Asia, it hired Joost Dop, the managing director of MEC Netherlands, as the chief executive and Mike Jackson from MindShare as the managing director of MEC Access in the region. In Europe, Jeff Hyams, the managing director of MEC Interaction, was promoted to chief strategy officer, and in North America, Lee Doyle and Rino Scanzoni were named chief executive and chairman respectively.

In terms of new business, MindShare's 2007 showing as a network was, by its own standards, a washout. Losing Mattel and Samsung global briefs, plus Fox in the US, left WPP executives looking for a solution.

But the network deserves recognition for apparently investing more than any other in cutting-edge creative solutions and content. This included the signing of major talent (including the former Diageo sponsorship director Sean Jefferson and the former Channel 4 producer Simon Willis). It also rolled out its "Destination Planning" process under the global planning chief, Marco Rimini, and on the digital front hired Norm Johnston, the former Digitas president, as the joint chief executive of MindShare Interaction EMEA. Its work throughout the year reflected its investment in content.

OMD deserves recognition for continuing to grow its business on the back of successful operations in most major markets. This year was considered one of transition in management terms, but that has put the network in good shape for 2008.

Recent winners: Carat (2006); OMD (2005); MindShare (2004)