Unilever's pan-European media pitch descends into farce

LONDON - The biggest European media pitch of the year was in disarray this week as infighting broke out at Unilever, further delaying a decision on its £680m review.

Unilever had said it would announce a winner two weeks ago, but Carat, Initiative and MindShare were still waiting to hear the result as Campaign went to press.

Unilever's global media director, Alan Rutherford, is said to favour moving the account to MindShare, but sources suggest he has met with strong opposition from some local managers who favour maintaining the status quo. Initiative holds the business in every major market across Europe, with the exception of Italy and Germany, which use MindShare. This week, Unilever's central management was still holding firm on its original view. However, one source suggested that a technicality surrounding due diligence in the pitch process has meant that senior Unilever management, right up to the chairman, Patrick Cescau, have now become involved in the process.

The FMCG giant called the media review in March and aimed to achieve savings of €40m. It hoped to have agency arrangements in place for the negotiation season at the end of the year but because of the delay this target is becoming harder to hit.

Rutherford was unavailable for comment.

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