Media Network of the Year: Carat

New-business billings totalling more than $4 billion, including big wins for the US and Asia, and eye-catching work made 2012 an impressive year

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2012 started in spectacular fashion for the Aegis-owned Carat. The network landed the $3 billion General Motors global business in January, claiming it to be its largest-ever single account win.

GM, whose brands include Chevrolet, fuelled Carat’s progress during 2012, contributing to an upturn in its fortunes in North America and Asia. It also provided impetus for Dentsu’s £3.2 billion takeover of Aegis in July – a move that could transform Carat all over again (especially in North-East Asia) when it goes through in 2013.

For Carat, this year was one of strong new-business growth combined with product innovation, eye-catching work and investment in its leadership team and digital capabilities.

GM headed the new-business list as Carat added to its assignment in Europe by capturing the business for the rest of the world – including in the US, where the car-maker focuses the majority of its advertising spend.

In October, Carat’s US operation received a further boost when it captured the $400 million Macy’s account from MEC. Wins weren’t confined to the US – other successes included COFCO in China ($52 million), Pringles on a global basis ($45 million) and MTN in Nigeria ($70 million). There were some negative notes later in the year when Carat lost the £200 million pan-European Johnson & Johnson business and the £78 million pan-European Beiersdorf account. However, the former was largely offset by the capture of the bulk of the £200 million pan-European (excluding the UK) Mondelez International – previously Kraft Foods – business.

In total, Carat can claim to have landed more than $4 billion in new-business billings – an achievement in a year when international pitches were relatively thin on the ground.

Carat supplemented this performance with investment in its service offering around its "redefining media" positioning. This was especially the case in various specialised digital services, such as search and social, where Carat can now claim to have greater staff resource than rival networks.

More impressively, Carat made big strides towards addressing its weaknesses geographically. Aegis’ chief executive, Jerry Buhlmann, and the North America chief executive, Nigel Morris, revamped Carat’s management in the US – bringing in Doug Ray, the former head of communications planning and executive vice-president on Procter & Gamble, as the chief executive in 2011 while appointing Martin Cass as the client president on GM. Grant Millar, moved from Vizeum to the new role of global brand director at Carat.

Under Ray, Carat, which had previously experienced some torrid years in the US, can claim strong billings growth and now looks a serious rival to networks that have been traditionally strong there. It was a similar story in Asia, where Carat has grown under the regional chief executive, Sean O’Brien – it opened a third office in India, two offices in China and expanded its operations in Australia.

In recent years, Carat, which now employs more than 6,000 staff in 130 countries, has also grown its Latin America unit via a series of acquisitions and has a presence in 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. However, Europe remains its engine room and, according to Recma figures, it maintained a narrow lead over MediaCom as the region’s largest network with $10.7 billion in billings (to the end of September).

Carat’s work for clients in 2012 was also stronger than before – its "urban tour" activity for Asos caught the eye, while its "CEO" YouTube video for Bodyform generated three million views and seven million Tweets. Its agency in Germany won a gold Cannes Mobile Lion for Nokia, while its segmentation and modelling for the likes of Disney and Kellogg provided evidence of a turbocharged ROI and data resource. It also played a key role in Adidas’ Olympics activity.

For Carat, supported by strong resource from Aegis, 2012 was stunning. It will be fascinating to see if it can continue this pattern of excellence under new ownership.


In 2011, PHD came second in our Media Network of the Year, beating its sister Omnicom network OMD into third place. This year, the places have reversed. OMD had a strong year: it maintained its number-one world ranking, according to Recma, while investing in new channels and digital training for its staff and emerging as the most-awarded media network in the world.

Its new-business performance was solid. Wins included Time Warner in the US and Latin America Discovery in the US and the consolidated global Luxottica Group business. It also expanded its relationship with clients including McDonald’s and Henkel.

OMD (notwithstanding some controversy over the judging process) emerged as the most-awarded media shop at Cannes, including the Grand Prix for Manning Gottlieb OMD’s UK work for Google.

New campaigns that impressed included its McDonald’s "coinoffers" activity in Denmark and OMD International’s Dockers digital campaign in the UK and France.

OMD’s leadership team deserves credit as one of the strongest around. Steve Blakeman, who joined the network last year as the chief executive in Asia-Pacific, has ensured that OMD remains a powerhouse in the region. Nikki Mendonça, the president in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Alan Cohen, the North America chief executive, continued to provide fine leadership, while Julian Porras, who arrived in 2010, drives Latin America.

The network had another year of growth in 2012 and all the building blocks are in place for positive development in 2013. Its challenge will be to maintain the high quality of work while continuing its digital transformation and winning sufficient new business to sustain its market share.


PHD was not far behind its more established sibling. It pulled off one of the new-business coups of the year: landing the Unilever global communications planning task after a pitch against other Unilever roster agencies. It also retained Unilever’s businesses in China, Eastern Europe and New Zealand. Its other wins of note included global media planning and buying for Bentley, ANZ Bank in Asia and Hotel.com’s online media across Greater China and South-East Asia.

Overall, the network landed $623 million in new business, a 46 per cent increase on 2011 – evidence that, under the global chief executive, Mike Cooper, PHD is increasingly competitive on a global and regional level.

Awards at Cannes included a bronze Lion for its US campaign for Aquafresh/GlaxoSmithKline and a gold Lion for PHD Peru’s work for the sports newspaper El Bocón.

The network also expanded its offer with agency launches in Australia, Switzerland and Indonesia, while it acquired a majority stake in South Africa’s Page Three Media.

With a strong, stable management team now in place and a commitment to innovation in planning, PHD has a compelling proposition to take to clients.
Recent winners: Maxus (2011); Carat (2010); no winner (2009); OMD (2008); Carat (2007)