Media Perspective: Media bandwagon rolls in. Let's hope it's a changed model

The media pitch bandwagon is rolling again. The new financial year has brought a new wave of media reviews, perhaps not yet on the scale of 2009's, but significant nonetheless. In the past fortnight, it has emerged that Arla Foods and SCA Hygiene are to review their European media agency arrangements.

And, if they're not your thing, the pan-European O2 pitch might seem more enticing. Sticking to ablution aids for a second, though, SCA Hygiene, home to brands such as Bodyform, Tena Lady and Velvet, is refreshingly open about the "sourcing" review it has embarked upon.

Mats Berencreutz, the president of SCA's tissue division in Europe, told me that it's reviewing media, currently with Carat, as it moves towards sourcing its marketing services more like "machinery and raw materials". On the surface, this sounds like a bad thing - equating media thinking with buying paper - but need this necessarily be the case?

Berencreutz also talks about the review creating potentially better outcomes such as "longer-term relationships" with agency suppliers and contracts that are more professional. The danger exists that media becomes mechanised and devalued, but SCA is actively looking to modernise its use of media channels and is not using words such as "savings" and "efficiencies" but talking instead of attaining a "better return on investment", which may end up meaning the same thing but is a goal all agencies should be willing to endorse should SCA be genuine about it.

O2 is a different order of advertiser but is also looking to streamline its suppliers across markets. According to sources, the review follows pressure from Telefonica at group level on O2's management to appoint one agency across its five European markets (the UK being by far the largest). O2 is said to have a good relationship with its UK incumbent, ZenithOptimedia, which has delivered some of its best work on the £57 million account.

It was reassuring to hear the O2 marketing director Sally Cowdry talk about O2's "long history of media innovation" and the pitch process ensuring "we continue to work with the best". But phrases such as "optimising available budget" are often euphemisms used by companies looking to achieve something at the opposite end of innovation.

The incumbent, if its UK track record counts for anything, should have a good chance of retaining the account, which will be awarded following a May pitch at Telefonica's HQ in Madrid. But expect Carat to attempt a fierce run at this business. After being burnt by Vodafone last year, the network would dearly love to work for one of its rivals. Let's hope this isn't another pan-European contest that amounts to death by PowerPoint for all concerned.

Topics