The biggest media pitch of the year has come to a conclusion and WPP has emerged triumphant.
Incumbent Mindshare retained most of Unilever’s media business across its top six markets: North America, the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia and China. The pitch was the first open review from Unilever in six years, since 2015.
For WPP, GroupM and Mindshare, the win is a major retention and expansion of a critical piece of business with one of the largest advertisers in the world. Including China, the group expanded its remit to about 80% of the global business, worth more than $3.4 billion. The brief, the largest its ever been for WPP, is seven times larger than that of Unilever’s next largest media agency, according to an internal note obtained by Campaign US.
Other holding companies, however, walked away with chunks of the business. Omnicom’s PHD won Austria, Germany and Switzerland, Canada, North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey from WPP, and Havas Media won France from the holding company, according to sources. WPP also lost Spain, and IPG’s Initiative retained some business. The losses amount to more than a third of the markets in play during the pitch, according to a source familiar with the review.
More than $3 billion worth of business was up for grabs, according to Comvergence, making it the biggest media pitch of the year. The pitch did not include Latin America or China, a $600 million chunk of the global account which Mindshare won from Omnicom last year.
According to sources, Publicis and Dentsu pitched for the business but did not win, despite Publicis picking up Unilever’s US $30 million retail advertising brief in March. Accenture Interactive reportedly competed for the business early on.
Mindshare’s ‘Good Growth’ story resonated with Unilever, which has a big focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility, according to the internal note.
Part of the brief, according to sources, was to centralize Unilever’s entire media business, inclusive of data, analytics, planning, buying and social, under a single agency in a given market.
Unilever, which owns brands including Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s, spent roughly $8.6 billion (£6.33 billion) on marketing prior to the pandemic. In October, Unilever pledged to increase its marketing spend after the worst of the pandemic. Underlying sales growth in the first half of 2021 was up almost 19% to $1.5 billion.