School Reports 2015: ZenithOptimedia


Score: 4  Last year: 3

It was another year of poor performance from ZenithOptimedia – although some of it was not of its own doing.

The year did not begin well – Telefónica announced a pan-European media review, including the £50 million account for O2. This was one of ZenithOptimedia’s longest-standing clients.

The agency emerged triumphant in July when Telefónica consolidated the business into Publicis Groupe, keeping ZenithOptimedia in the UK. However, after a tawdry intervention by Havas’ Vincent Bolloré, the decision was reversed and, to the shock of both ZenithOptimedia and O2, the account ended up at Havas. Some sympathy is due for the way ZenithOptimedia was treated. Another low point came when BGL Group, which owns, shifted its £110 million European business into MEC. ZenithOptimedia’s billings have consequently tumbled.

Given this grim backdrop, it was definitely time for ZenithOptimedia to come up with a new strategy and make some key changes at management level in an attempt to reboot. It hired Grant Millar, the president of global clients at Dentsu Aegis Network, as its chief executive and appointed Karl Guard, a communications planning director at ZenithOptimedia Worldwide, as the head of strategy.

The agency was behind some interesting work for RB’s Durex and, more importantly, a much-needed shot in the arm came from winning Nestlé from Mindshare. But the agency will need to do a lot more than that in 2015 to restore confidence and get back on a winning spree. Millar has his work cut out on that one.

How the agency scores itself: 6

How the agency rates itself: A transitional year of new-business success, bad luck and exciting new talent. After the emphatic retention of Telefónica and Molson Coors, new-business success continued with Nestlé, and strong organic growth including SEO wins for RB, Aviva and John Frieda. Due to reasons beyond our control, we parted ways with Telefónica in 2015. Our specialist capabilities have been reinforced with industry-renowned talent from VCCP, Possible, WPP, Somo and AKQA.

Type of agency Media
Company ownership Publicis Groupe
Nielsen billings 2014 £475m
Nielsen billings 2013 £585m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 216
Accounts won 7 (biggest: Nestlé)
Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Telefónica)
Traditional media 66%
Digital media 25%
Other media 9%
Number of staff 416 (+3%)
Key personnel Belinda Rowe UK chairman
Grant Millar chief executive
Mark Howley group managing director
Karl Guard head of strategy
Jon King managing director, Performics

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.