Project "Fightback" was the call to arms that Stephen Allan, global chairman and chief executive of MediaCom, issued in the wake of losing Volkswagen Group’s £2bn global account in June 2016.
Winning new business should be at the core of every successful agency, but the scale of the task MediaCom faced in 2017 should not be underestimated. After all, this was the year when parent company WPP and its media arm, Group M, shut two of MediaCom’s sister networks, MEC and Maxus, merging them to form Wavemaker because of big account losses.
The survival of MediaCom may never have been in doubt, but it still had to prove whether 2017 would be merely a year of recovery or a genuine fightback. Allan, in his 35th year at the agency, and his team responded in style, with the UK, under the leadership of Josh Krichefski, performing especially well. MediaCom won business worth the best part of $3bn – notably Richemont, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Peugeot and Citroën owner PSA Group and, last month, Vauxhall/Opel (also PSA-owned) in Europe.
There was also the successful defence of Procter & Gamble’s business in Germany – an important retention with the brand having put transparency high on the agenda globally. MediaCom did, however, miss out on the P&G consolidation in the UK and relinquished Deutsche Telekom in Germany, where the account moved to sister agency Mindshare.
Elsewhere, the network helped existing clients such as Shell, Sony and Tesco to grow sales, and picked up four Cannes Lions, including for Deutsche Telekom’s Sea Hero Quest. It claimed a part in a further 56 Lions as the accredited media agency on the work.
MediaCom has a reputation for excellence in planning under the leadership of Matt Mee, global chief strategy officer, and has kept it up with Cultural Connections, a database based on 60,000 consumer interviews conducted across 52 countries, which identifies the cultural factors that influence consumers’ responses to brands and their content.
The network has also invested in its 7,000 staff by staging mental-health weeks in different markets; in recognition, perhaps, that 2016 had been a trying experience.
There was plenty to celebrate in 2017, though, as MediaCom fought back and won.
It was halfway through 2017 that Essence turned from digital agency into full-service media network, as parent company WPP sought to reinvigorate its media operation, Group M.
Essence’s mantra is "make advertising more valuable to the world" by being smarter and more efficient. That has been good enough for Google, an Essence client for 12 years. Other existing Group M advertisers, including BT, Target and NBC Universal, have moved across to the agency this year, while dairy company FrieslandCampina was a notable win.
The work has been good. Essence served dynamic creative for online sports platform DAZN and took on programmatic for BP. Billings have trebled from $1bn to $3bn and it has added five offices this year, taking the total to 15, so its global reach is increasing.
Moving into traditional media buying and taking on leadership from defunct sister agency Maxus will be tests for global chief executive Christian Juhl. We will watch with interest to see whether the agency delivers in 2018.
If losing P&G in the US two years ago and the subsequent break-up of Starcom Mediavest Group shook confidence, Starcom has proved itself in the past 12 months. The agency scooped €1.7bn worth of new billings, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles right at the end of 2016, plus Prada, Pandora, Dropbox and Merck Consumer Healthcare outside the US.
Starcom also won two of the biggest US pitches, for Lowe’s Home Improvement and Lionsgate Studios. It added business from existing clients, too, including Visa, Mars and Kraft Heinz. As part of Publicis Media, Starcom can benefit from its power, which helped the group retain P&G in the UK this year.
The only doubt about this structure is that Starcom appears to lack some autonomy – an impression reinforced by the fact that a global brand president, rather than a chief executive, sits at its head. Still, Lisa Donohue, who moved to Publicis Spine in October, and her successor as global brand president, John Sheehy, can reflect on a strong year.
Campaign’s media network of the past two years had a good 2017 without matching previous heights, particularly the £2bn Volkswagen Group triumph of 2016. PHD increased billings by 28%, while there were some decent wins, including Huawei in China and Argos in the UK. Mike Cooper, global chief executive, who has marked 10 years in the job, can claim another milestone, as 48% of PHD’s senior leadership is female. •
Recent winners: PHD (2016); PHD (2015); Starcom Mediavest Group (2014); Group M (2013); Carat (2012)