$1 BILLION SONY MEDIA REVIEW IN HIGH GEAR

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Sony Corp. is putting its estimated $1 billion consolidated media buying and planning review into high gear, calling for meetings next week in New York with all incumbent shops, according to people familiar with the review.

The meetings will call for agencies to present their cross-divisional cababilities. All Sony divisions, including Sony Pictures, are part of the consolidation, as reported first July 2 by Advertising Age magazine.

Agencies invited to discussions in New York are Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, WPP Group's MindShare and the Media Edge, and Zenith Media, jointly owned by Publicis Groupe and Cordiant Communications Group.

Although some executives have characterized the Sony initiative as a review, others have called it a "fact-finding mission" exploring the issues of global media consolidation, the principal media agency players and their services. One executive said the talks were "90% informational."

Although discussions have been about global consolidation, not regional, Sony's home market, Japan, would stay at Dentsu. Previous discussions took place in Japan, and it is believed that the push to consolidate media is coming from the East, while resistance to it comes from the West, specifically from Sony's highly independent U.S. divisions, which apparently would prefer to choose their own advertising partners.

Sony spent $1.48 billion on global media in 1999, including $590 million in the U.S. and $328 million in Japan. Excluding Japan, that suggests $1.15 billion is up for grabs in the global review.

Currently, media buying and planning for Sony units are handled by different agencies across the globe. Zenith recently won the $40 million Columbia TriStar movie account in the U.K.; sibling Saatchi & Saatchi handles consumer electronics creative in Europe. Media Edge handles buying and planning for Sony Electronics in the U.S.; sibling Y&R Advertising works on creative. Starcom handles media buying and planning for Sony in parts of Asia and Europe. Dentsu has a stake in Starcom parent Bcom3. Omnicom Group media arm OMD services some of Sony's electronics business in Europe, while sibling shop TBWA Worldwide fields creative on PlayStation in the U.S. and Europe.

A Sony Corp. of America spokeswoman declined to comment.

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