Networks contest Mattel media task

Mattel, the global toy manufacturer, is reviewing its £150 million pan-European media planning and buying account.

A large chunk of the European business is held by WPP's MindShare, including the £32 million UK media account. Agency sources said that Mattel is looking at its media arrangements in major European markets before holding a pitch.

It is in the early stages of approaching other networks to pitch for the business on a European basis, with a consolidation into one agency a possible option.

Mattel conducted a similar review process in the US in 1999, when it appointed MindShare and The Media Edge to handle the $200 million media account.

The review is said to be out of Mattel's European headquarters in Amsterdam.

However, last year Paul McGarry, Mattel's international marketing director, left Mattel and the responsibility for marketing outside the US was transferred back to North America.

Mattel's European media review does not affect creative, which was consolidated globally into MindShare's sister agency Ogilvy & Mather last year - it had previously been shared between O&M, J. Walter Thompson and McCann-Erickson. However, Young & Rubicam won the role as lead agency for Mattel's boys division, which includes the Matchbox and Hot Wheels brands.

The toy company's UK media spend is heavily focused on its Barbie range.

Mattel spent more than £10 million in the past year on the famous doll. It spent £2 million on Hot Wheels, £2 million on Fisher-Price and £1.2 million on its Winnie the Pooh toys range. Its also ran a press and poster campaign for its Scrabble board game last year. Close to £30 million of its UK spend is focused on television.

Other media activity devised by Mattel has included interactive advertising carried on Cartoon Network to back Hot Wheels models. Viewers were able to click through to a game in the Cartoon Network areas of Sky Gamestar.

Mattel's activity for Barbie has also steered increasingly toward emerging media, with a series of interactive soap opera-style ads running on Nickelodeon that prompted viewers to visit a microsite to win a prize.

Despite difficult market conditions, Mattel recently posted 2002 sales up 4 per cent on the previous year. Sales of Barbie and Fisher-Price products were especially strong. It is also launching new products such as the "My Scene" range, a selection of more fashionable Barbie dolls for older girls. Press and outdoor advertising activity for the launch featured photography by the fashion photographer Rankin.

No-one at Mattel was available to comment on the story The MindShare Worldwide chief strategy and planning officer, Nick Emery, said he was unaware of any review of the Mattel business.