Media Perspective: Let's hope Nestle's review mill leaves room for creativity

Sometimes you can't help feeling short-changed. Like the chap - not me, honest - who featured in the Daily Mirror's "Dr Miriam" problem page on Monday wanting to spice up his marital sex life with some "blue videos".

Dr Miriam's suggestion? Watch Ghost starring Demi Moore. "The pottery scene gets some people going," she coos. No wonder her former husband ran off with Felicity Kendall.

Nestle's UK media agencies, MindShare, Universal McCann and OMD UK, could be excused for feeling as deflated as Dr Miriam's patient. The coffee-to-confectionery giant spent the best part of two years reviewing different parts of its UK media (coffee, yoghurts, petfood) and now, having gone through all the local pitch palaver, these agencies now face more months of slogging away on charts and presentations as part of Nestle's giant $1.5 billion global review.

On the other hand, though, they can look forward to the possibility of a greater share of the Nestle pie if the global business is consolidated into fewer agencies and they are successful.And it is apparent that Nestle has a large number of local relationships with media networks when compared with similar-sized conglomerates. MindShare, Initiative, OMD, Universal McCann and ZenithOptimedia are all on the roster.

Some streamlining of this arrangement may be sensible, if only to make relationships more manageable, but as usual with global pitches the suspicion lurks that cost saving is the number-one issue driving the process.

Auditors are pitching for a role in the process and reports suggest Ed Marra, Nestle's new executive vice-president of worldwide marketing, has called the review as part of a brief to "rationalise" marketing spend.

Unlike other global players, who have been well and truly up slack alley when they've called media reviews, Nestle is in a relatively strong financial condition globally (profits and sales were both up in 2003). However, there is a clear drive toward accountability and cost effectiveness in some markets as shown by the recent attacks by the UK Nestle Rowntree managing director, Chris White, on, as he sees it, ads that win awards but don't sell products.

The worry is that Nestle will also move in a more prosaic, workaday direction with its media. Its UK activity in recent months has contained many high points (the Kit Kat "Britain's Biggest Break" media activity, Smarties' deals with Emap and new work from OMD UK for Felix catfood). And it would be a shame if good work were lost through the drive for consolidation and savings.

However, for once I'm confident that this won't happen. Nestle is making the right noises about the importance of good local solutions and inspires some hope that creativity won't be lost altogether. Let's just hope that its appointed auditor gives better advice than Dr Miriam.

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