Universal McCann has walked off with the pounds 18 million Sky
Television media planning and buying business, leaving the incumbent of
five years, Zenith Media, empty handed.
Universal pitched against Zenith and the Network, Ogilvy and Mather’s
media arm, which had been the favourite to land the account. The Network
is pitching with its WPP stablemate, J. Walter Thompson, for the Central
Office of Information’s centralised press buying business, and the pair
were also understood to be prepared to pool resources for Sky (Campaign,
Sky is Universal’s third major new-business win in 1997, bringing new
billings for the first half of the year to pounds 40 million. The agency
has already picked up the pounds 12 million Esso account and the pounds
10 million Entertainment Film Distributors business.
The Sky pitch was called in March after the departure of Christine
Walker, Zenith’s chief executive. Walker was close to the Sky account
and rumours that she would become the European head of a new WPP media
operation, combining the Network and JWT, fuelled speculation that the
account would move there.
Jim Hytner, the marketing director at Sky, said Universal was the right
cultural fit for Sky, but admitted it was a very close pitch.
’It could have stayed with Zenith,’ he added. ’They hardly put a foot
wrong. We just felt we needed a fresh pair of legs on the field.’’
Trista Grant, the managing director of Universal McCann, said: ’We are
delighted to be working with a company as forward thinking as Sky
The appointment is likely to bring about a change in media strategy, and
may see Sky move away from a reliance on posters and press.
Hytner commented: ’Part of Universal’s remit will be to challenge Sky on
its media strategy. Universal is going to provide us with innovation and
Graham Duff, the chief executive of Zenith Media, said: ’The team has
done a great job so it is frustrating to lose out.’