Take a good look at this league table of media agencies and their
respective billings. Because if there is one sector in this whole
supplement where names and places are most likely to change within the
next 12 months, it is probably in the media planning and buying
There is a sense of change waiting to happen in the UK media
Despite talks of consolidation and mergers and acquisitions, the past
year has seen something of a lull in activity. The big agency networks
have yet to take the bull by the horns in the UK market and converge
operations, which would give the kind of critical mass required to match
the consolidation of media ownership. Whether that means Aegis buying
Zenith, Interpublic Group bringing together Initiative and Western, or
the newly formed BDM merging Starcom with MediaVest remains to be seen.
But many of the agencies in this league table are in one way or another
’in play’ either within their own networks, or as potential targets.
Despite being the UK’s biggest media buying agency, Zenith Media remains
the most likely acquisition target.
Zenith has lost some business this year, including the pounds 3m
Powergen account and pounds 5m Tetley Tea, but this is small beer
compared to one of the biggest account wins of the year - the pounds 36m
consolidated Mars business picked up in October. Its other significant
win was the pounds 8m Littlewoods account picked up in April.
Under chief executive Graham Duff and managing director Simon Marquis,
the memory of Zenith as Christine Walker’s agency is now fading
But industry observers believe Aegis has not given up on hopes of
Which takes us to the second placed agency Carat, which has restructured
its key management this year. Mark Craze is now chief executive across
the Carat UK operation and looking hard at where improvements can be
made.The agency this month acquired Feather Brooksbank in Scotland for
pounds 7.5m. It will merge the agency with its Manchester operation.
Wins this year have included Sega Dreamcast, worth pounds 8m, Dolphin
pounds 3m, and Primus Telecom pounds 10m. But its losses included pounds
11.6m in PepsiCo business, pounds 5m from Reckitt & Colman, with Carat
Manchester losing the pounds 12m Iceland business. Wal-Mart’s
acquisition of Asda could be a potential boost to billings next
BMP OMD takes the third slot. In terms of new business this year it has
picked up several accounts including Boo.com (pounds 1.5m) Gillette
(pounds 2.4m) and Exchange Holdings (pounds 2m), but lost some sizable
chunks of business in the form of Sony (pounds 10m) and Britvic (pounds
The agency can also expect significant spending by Camelot next year as
it moves into the last stages of its licence, and promotes its case for
running the National Lottery after 2001.
The merged MediaCom TMB agency takes the fourth spot in the billings
league. Its most spectacular win this year was the pounds 80m VW
account, adding to pounds 4m from Scottish Telecom and pounds 12m from
Iceland. On the debit side it lost pounds 15m in Mars business as part
of the centralisation, and a pounds 7m account from Warner Bros.
WPP owned MindShare, the joint JWT and O&M media operation came together
in reality in June last year when it moved into its new modernist
offices in Charing Cross Road. 1999 has been a steady year for the
operation with a series of new business wins, most notably the pounds
15m account to launch Open, pounds 20m in Britvic work won in June and
pounds 13m Mazda business in August.
The agency also has a top team in the shape of Mandy Pooler, chief
executive and Simon Rees managing director. Losses in this year were
Bupa (pounds 4.5m) and Woolwich (pounds 2.5m).
Below the top five is IPG-owned Initiative, which has had a quiet year
following its successes of 1998. Admittedly the managing team of Roy
Jeans and Tony Manwaring have been busy bedding in the new business won
in 1998, which included LVMH (pounds 10m), Calvin Klein (pounds 10m),
Johnson & Johnson (pounds 18m) and Timberland (pounds 1m). This August
it picked up the Cisco account worth pounds 4m. But it has lost no
business this year and its management’s philosophy seems to be steady as
Universal McCann, which had an outstanding 1988 continued to go from
strength to strength in 1999, and IPG is now in the process of renaming
all of its media businesses with the ’Universal’ brand. Universal under
its joint managing directors Fiona Smedley and Chris Shaw lists its wins
this year as Mastercard (pounds 5m), Reckitt & Colman (pounds 5m) and
Nintendo (pounds 5m).
MediaVest, one of the sharpest media operators in town, has had a
difficult couple of years. In 1998 it spent the best part of the year in
abortive discussions with Leo Burnett about a possible merger. To make
matters worse it had resigned the pounds 8m KFC business so it wouldn’t
clash with Burnett’s McDonald’s account.
This year the agency has been trying to get back to business as usual,
but its billings have dropped year on year and in October it lost pounds
21m in Mars business.
Its wins were Bupa (pounds 4.5m) at the beginning of the year and Tetley
Tea (pounds 5m) in October. But they have done little to make up for the
lost revenues over the past couple of years.
Ironically, MediaVest is now facing more uncertainty after Leo Burnett
and MacManus concluded a merger earlier this month. So far the newly
created business, named BDM, says its media interests will remain
distinct, with Starcom up and running.
New PHD, generally agreed by media commentators to be the media agency
of the year in 1998, has had another strong year with a series of
business wins, including Warner Bros Distributors (pounds 7m),
Sainsbury’s regional work and the COI’s pounds 15m anti-smoking
It has also spent the year bedding down the major accounts it won in
1998, including BT’s pounds 100m strategic planning account. The agency
has also been responsible for media buying on ONdigital’s account, which
has seen significant spend in the London area.
New PHD has done what many of its rivals aspire to do, prove that an
agency can combine sharp strategic thinking with big media accounts.
Sitting below New PHD is CIA Medianetwork, an agency which shows how
quickly fortunes can change in the media business. Five years ago the
agency was a major player, ranked among the biggest in billings and the
best in terms of prospects. Then came the debacle with the ITV sales
house Laser which damaged its credibility.
That period led to a downward spiral in its fortunes, with the agency
losing confidence and clients. It also led to a shake out of senior
To try and stem the losses it bolted Tony Kenyon’s IDK buying business
on to CIA, which included the BT account. But this too disappeared last
year when BT reviewed and moved the account into Nigel Allmond’s start
up The Allmond Partnership, backed by Manning Gottlieb Media.
Tempus, CIA’s parent company has spent the last two years trying to get
the CIA brand back on track.
To date CIA’s record this year on business won and lost comes out about
equal - with wins including the Digital Broadcasting Company (pounds 3m)
and Raleigh Bikes (pounds 1.2m) and losses of IPC (pounds 300,000),
Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (pounds 1m) and Jordans (pounds
Mediapolis has not had the happiest experiences with car clients. A
couple of years ago it lost the Peugeot-Citroen business, and this year
it parted with Mercedes, a pounds 15m piece of business, which moved to
Bozell Worldwide in a global agency realignment. Compensation came in
the form of a number of smaller account wins across the year, including
Bayer (pounds 4.8m), Campbell Distillers (pounds 1.5m), the new budget
airline buzz (pounds 3.5m) and Jordans (pounds 2m).
The agency continues to handle strategic planning on the Camelot
Optimedia continues to be an agency without a clear-cut personality or
brand, but one which nevertheless seems to keep its clients happy, gets
on some good pitch lists and converts much of the business.
This year has seen it pick up business across the year, including the
National Bingo Gaming Association (pounds 5m), Woolwich (pounds 10m)
Marks & Spencer (pounds 2m) and UK Plus (pounds 1m). Its only loss has
been the pounds 5m Mastercard business back in June.
Leo Burnett’s media operation became Starcom this year. It marked the
change by winning the pounds 21m Heinz business in July.
Major question marks are hanging over BBJ Media Services. Not least
among these was the international movement of the VW business, which saw
it lose pounds 80m in business in August, although the UK operation had
denied it was going to be effected.
It was announced that Trista Grant, McCann’s former media chief, was to
return from Australia to take over BBJ. Its former managing director
Jerry Buhlmann has moved to take over Carat International.
Manning Gottlieb Media has had a year of solid business achievement,
with new wins including Absolut Vodka (pounds 1m) Swiftcall (pounds 2m),
Dr Martens (pounds 1.5m) and Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries (pounds
But its biggest new business has been a piece of organic growth - from
one of its best clients, Virgin. The agency has been picked to handle
planning and buying for Virgin Mobile, which launched this month, and is
expected to spend around pounds 20m over the next year. Its only loss
across the year to date has been Raleigh Bikes which peddled off to
The astonishing rise in billings for MGM can be attributed to the buying
for BT by The Allmond Partnership, which is done through MGM.
Western under its managing director Mike Tunnicliffe has had a good
year, which will allow it to resist moves by IPG to look for a merger
between it and its sister agency Initiative.
Its wins have included FT.com, a significant spender this year, which
will probably boost its budget next year. Airtours landed its pounds 8m
account in the agency in April followed by Powergen’s pounds 10m in May
and October saw it pick up the Encyclopaedia Britannica account
Its only loss has been Carlton TV’s pounds 1m account. Tunnicliffe has
worked successfully to promote the research and planning side of
Western’s offering, and build the agency as a brand.
Motive, which is 49% owned by Leo Burnett, is another agency which has
resisted being dragged into a merger by virtue of its strong brand and
successful record. This year has seen it continue that performance with
a string of new business wins, including Kia’s pounds 5m account, the
pounds 10m Videonet account, the pounds 6m HFC Card and the pounds 2m
launch media business for TheStreet.com.
Walker Media continues in its avaricious fashion to seize new business
at an astonishing rate. The fact that less than two years after its
launch it is now a top 20 agency is testament to the standing of its two
founding partners, Christine Walker and Phil Georgiadis.
Wins have included Storehouse (pounds 3.5m), IPC (pounds 4.5m), Excite
(pounds 2m) Young’s (pounds 1.5m), IPC Electric (pounds 4.4m), New
Zealand Tourist Board (pounds 500,000), the Tobacco Manufacturers
Association (pounds 1m) and Dyson (pounds 5m).
None of these have matched the major business wins of its first year,
but Walker Media continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Next year
will also see the agency benefit from what will be a significant spend
by the New Millennium Experience Company, to promote the Dome.
The biggest change in the table is. Saatchi & Saatchi out of the top 20,
from 17 this time last year to number 30. Its sharp 65% drop in billings
to pounds 32.2m is down to Procter & Gamble’s media review which saw it
consolidate business into Starcom at the beginning of the year. The
dramatic change in Saatchis’ fortune is a reminder of why the media
agencies are still jostling for positions and partners and looking for
further consolidation of the sector.
Top 20 Media agencies
Rank Year Agency Billings Year Ending Yr on Yr
Ending Sep 99 Sep 98 %
Sep99 Sep98 (pounds m) (pounds m) Change
1 1 Zenith Media Services 575.43 536.04 7
2 2 Carat Group 504.28 472.73 6
3 3 BMP OMD 367.13 360.90 1
4 7 MediaCom TMB 365.44 333.23 9
5 6 MindShare Media 348.79 338.27 3
6 8 Initiative Media London 337.82 279.79 20
7 9 Universal McCann 336.13 266.19 26
8 10 New PHD 316.76 236.62 33
9 5 MediaVest 314.30 338.77 -7
10 4 CIA Medianetwork 253.29 342.77 -26
11 12 Optimedia International 217.33 182.18 19
12 11 Mediapolis 205 201.94 1
13 18 Manning Gottlieb Media 195.11 85.49 128
14 13 BBJ 192.24 175.13 9
15 14 Starcom 177.61 149.86 18
16 16 Motive Communications 168.62 121.02 39
17 15 Western International Media 162.73 141.55 14
18 32 Walker Media 121.08 23.67 411
19 22 CDP Media 76.95 52.02 47
20 24 MBS Group 61.45 42.40 44
This article was first published on Marketing