School Reports 2014: ZenithOptimedia


Score: 3  Last year: 4

There’s no hiding the fact that 2013 was another tumultuous year for ZenithOptimedia – and this was one thing the agency really didn’t need. After calamitous business losses in 2012, clients kept calling pitches and 2013 was unfortunately bookended by the loss of two of the agency’s longest-standing relationships: British Airways and L’Oréal.

In 2012, ZenithOptimedia had been rocked by the departure of key management figures and, again, this was a continuing theme in 2013. Gerry Boyle, the UK chairman, left to take up the same role for the network’s Asia-Pacific operation, while Rian Shah, the head of strategy at Zenith Media, departed for OMD. But the deepest blow was when, in a muddled process, the chief executive Tim Hipperson left after six months, dashing hopes that he could be the man to bring stability. He was not replaced, and the worldwide managing partner, Belinda Rowe, took charge as the chair of a new board to watch over both the UK and London-based Worldwide divisions.

Amid this upheaval, there was comfort in some new-business wins. ZenithOptimedia landed the European accounts for Bacardi and Kayak, and consolidated the eOne business. It can also be proud of work such as O2’s "be more dog" campaign and the telecoms company’s career initiative for young people, Go Think Big, which was awarded Best Collaboration and Most Innovative Campaign by the PPA.

There is potential for ZenithOptimedia to turn things around but, with O2 planning a statutory review in 2014, it doesn’t look like the tough ride is over yet. Whether Walker Media will prove to be the solution, particularly to provide the senior management the agency so desperately needs, we will have to see.

How ZenithOptimedia rates itself: 5

ZenithOptimedia's year in a Tweet: New Leadership team led by Belinda Rowe and Mark Howley. 70% new biz rate: 10 wins, couple of losses. Big growth of SEO, Newcast and Mobile.

Type of agency Media
Company ownership Publicis Groupe
Key personnel Belinda Rowe UK chair
Mark Howley group managing director
Tom Cijffers managing director, Zenith
Natalie Cummins managing director, Optimedia
Chris Hayward head of investment
Nielsen billings 2013 £586m
Nielsen billings 2012 £701m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 211
Accounts won 10 (biggest: SCA)
Accounts lost 4 (biggest: L’Oréal)
Traditional 81%
Digital 14%
Other 5%
Number of staff 403 (+2%)

Score key: 9 Outstanding 8 Excellent 7 Good 6 Satisfactory 5 Adequate 4 Below average 3 Poor 2 A year to forget 1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.