Media Perspective: MEC win holds clues to relationship of ad agencies and media

While being named as Campaign's Media Agency of the Year has not exactly proved a curse for Mediaedge:cia, it seems fair to say that the company has not carried its top form and momentum into 2008.

In January, MEC lost the BT planning account it gained last year as part of a wider BT review. Then, this week, it saw the £20 million Nationwide business, an account it had held for 12 years, move to Media Planning Group. In an unconnected move, it is also losing its highly rated joint managing director Toby Jenner, who is moving to run MediaCom Sydney. A loss of talent down to family reasons and career ambition rather than dissatisfaction with MEC, but, nonetheless, the agency will miss Jenner's energy.

Regarding Nationwide, MEC has done well to hold on to the business so long, and it seems an odd time to move given that the agency is now indisputably stronger than it has been at any time in that 12-year period. However, you can't keep all clients happy all of the time, and the answer to the move seems to lie in an impressive offer from MPG.

The Havas-owned operation had a good year last year and has now built on this with the Nationwide win, which, together with last year's Axa success, has more than filled the financial services-shaped-hole created by the loss of ING Direct back in 2006.Under the managing partners Mark Craze and Marc Mendoza, the agency seems to have a strong proposition of offering senior people on business that works in terms of landing medium-sized, famous UK brands (last year, it added the BBC to its client list).

Moving back to MEC, it has not been all bad news for the WPP operation lately. It's been confirmed that it has landed the £8 million UK planning and buying task for the Fiat car brand Alfa Romeo. A win that says as much about the wider environment in which media agencies operate as it does about MEC's ability to do a good job on the business.

MediaVest UK seems unfortunate to lose this business, not least because of its good work on the wider Fiat UK account. And while it seems that it is locked in a temporarily bitter battle with MEC for each other's business (the agency is part of the Publicis team that landed BT), the Alfa Romeo move seemed to owe much to a powerplay from WPP.

WPP's links with Fiat are strong following its acquisition in 2006 of a 49 per cent stake in Fiat Media Centre, the automotive company's in-house media agency in Italy. It has since pushed for any gains it can with Fiat. Also, unusually it seems for a WPP creative agency when dealing with its media cousins, Young & Rubicam pushed extremely hard for MEC's appointment. The fact that this relationship could provide almost a "full-service" WPP solution is not much consolation to MediaVest UK.

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