Three prominent GroupM clients in China, including longstanding partner Yum Brands, along with Dyson and Swatch have called for media reviews in the market, Campaign can reveal.
According to sources with knowledge of the reviews, the GroupM incumbent agencies were not invited to re-pitch for the brand accounts, which may signal a significant shift in WPP's media client relationships in China.
The reviews come at a turbulent time for GroupM's mainland office in the aftermath of the detention of three GroupM trading executives in China over charges relating to bribery, back in October 2023, which has since sparked WPP's own internal investigation. Today, GroupM China CEO and WPP Country Manager Patrick Xu resigned from his post after a decade with the company.
When asked about media reviews for these clients, GroupM declined to comment on the status of the three accounts above, but dismissed claims that they were not invited to pitch as ‘inaccurate’.
The largest and most widely-known of the three accounts would be fast food major Yum Brands. Campaign can confirm that the KFC and Pizza Hut parent has officially kicked off a review of its sizeable media business in China, worth $400 million according to Comvergence.
Mindshare has held this account since 1998 and its current scope includes media buying for Yum China across digital, out-of-home, radio and TV.
In 2018, Mindshare played a critical role in helping KFC enter the world of eSports in 2018 thanks to its multiple award-winning Colonel KI campaign. The AI-enabled technology helped League of Legends players predict who would win their games in real time using AI.
Multiple sources tell Campaign that Havas, OMG and IPG Mediabrands have all received and reviewed the request for proposal (RFP) from Yum, though their involvement in the pitch remains to be determined. Campaign reached out to each of them for comment, though OMG and Havas declined and IPG did not acknowledge the request.
The last time Yum China initiated a media review was in 2017. Publicis Media’s Zenith, IPG Mediabrands’ UM, and Dentsu’s Carat participated. Ultimately, Mindshare retained the business, with the media account then estimated to be worth between US$600 million and US$800 million in billings.
Swiss watchmaker Swatch has also initiated a competitive media review of its media account worth $80 million to $100 million that currently sits with Wavemaker. According to Comvergence, Wavemaker handles all offline media planning and buying for Swatch brands like Longines, Mido, Omega, Rado, Swatch and Tissot.
The media duties have stayed with the GroupM agency for close to two decades while OMD handles digital media buying and programmatic for the same Swatch brands, worth US$13 million in billings.
A spokesperson from Publicis Groupe has confirmed their involvement in the pitch. Swatch's Harry Winston offline media buying and planning account sits with Publicis' Starcom. This account is worth US$5 million in billings, according to Comvergence.
Campaign further understands that OMG, Havas, and IPG have all shown interest in the RFP, but have not detailed their participation to Campaign. According to sources, the pitch process is in the second round.
Wavemaker won the Swatch account in 2018 from Kinetic Worldwide, who previously held it from 2015 to 2018, after GroupM sunset Kinetic's operations in Asia-Pacific. The account was previously held by Mediacom (now EssenceMediacom) for a decade, from 2005 to 2015.
There was no response from Wavemaker when Campaign reached out.
According to Comvergence, Dyson’s current billings have reached an impressive US$124 million. Mindshare has been managing Dyson’s account in China since 2013.
Recently, Publicis Groupe confirmed that they received a RFP from Dyson. However, they have not disclosed whether they will participate in the pitch. Meanwhile, sources close to the situation reveal that both IPG and Dentsu are also in the running for the pitch, although there is no official confirmation yet.
Dyson’s media business in China was last reviewed in 2021. Prior to that, Mindshare held the account for eight years starting from 2013 and successfully re-pitched for it. The $315 million pitch was subsequently retained by Mindshare in 2022, representing 58% of the billings in this sector.
Mindshare not only handles media planning and purchasing for Dyson but also plays a crucial role in strategic management and execution. Their responsibilities extend to overseeing e-commerce operations in China and managing all offline media buying and planning for Dyson.
When contacted, R3 would not confirm or deny involvement in the reviews. Campaign understands Ebiquity is not involved with the pitch.