MindShare comes to life with Group M and new business

It had seemed awfully quiet at MindShare until last week. The self-proclaimed House of Media had seemed more like the House of the Dead, given the lack of mentions at recent Campaign news meetings, writes Ian Darby.

But then two big news events came at once. First, WPP's plans to form a global media parent company (Group M) became public. MindShare's global chief executive, Irwin Gotlieb, was shunted over to run the parent group while Dominic Proctor, MindShare's UK-based chief operating officer, was handed the MindShare reins.

Meanwhile, MindShare's UK operation was celebrating the capture of the £10m Nestle coffee business. Undoubtedly a great win and a big blow for Universal McCann. Incidentally, it would be interesting to know how hard it was for Stuart Cox, Nestle's media manager and a former McCann media director (made redundant in 1994), to make this decision against his old agency.

Critics of the WPP behemoth would argue that Nestle came just in time. MindShare's domestic new-business win rate was slower than a dyslexic speed-reading contest -- it won Hutchison and Heineken in the mists of last year but precious little since. However, getting the Nestle account in the bag, with the possibility of some large pitches coming up, could be just the catalyst MindShare needs.

The impact of the launch of Group M on the UK operation remains to be seen but, as some MindShare staffers themselves have pointed out, it's nothing to get too excited about. Like Aegis, which recently launched its own media parent company, and Interpublic, which has Magna, WPP is merely creating the opportunity for economies on joint negotiation while avoiding the client conflict issue that closer working with Mediaedge:cia could have thrown up. Indeed, one MindShare executive cheekily described Group M as "Magna that works".

But the elevation of Proctor is interesting. He is well respected for the work he ploughed into getting MindShare off the ground in markets outside the US and will now get his chance to run the whole network while spending much more time stateside. However, he obviously has a great affinity with the agency's UK operation that can only benefit its relatively new chief executive, Kelly Clark.

Unlike ZenithOptimedia's Antony Young, Clark hasn't generated a blaze of new-business triumphs or shaken the agency for new ideas. He hasn't needed to. MindShare was a fairly strong, successful operation when he inherited it and the agency merely needs to focus more on new business and delivering the diverse House of Media offering rather than re-engineering its whole structure.

That said, MindShare still has a long way to go, especially in Europe, where it is dwarfed in the billings rankings by Carat and Omnicom's recently created OMD Europe. Another sleepy year is not an option.

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