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Fashion Giant Chanel Taps WPP To Create Dedicated Group Called 'Plus'

Media Incumbent MEC, Mindshare, Ogilvy and AKQA Will All Pitch In on Account

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WPP won more than it bargained for in Chanel's media agency review.

The luxury giant began a pitch for its media business in January, but months later, at the end of that process it has selected a WPP to handle much more. The holding company is creating a dedicated group that will be responsible for creative and digital marketing too.

"After an in-depth global media review, Chanel has decided to renew its collaboration with WPP through a new and dedicated venture called 'Plus,'" a Chanel spokeswoman told Ad Age. "This new model will allow Chanel to access WPP's best talents with media at heart."

Brad Pitt in Chanel No. 5 commercial
Brad Pitt in Chanel No. 5 commercial

Plus will house executives from Group M's MEC -- which was the incumbent shop on the media business -- and sister agency Mindshare, as well as executives from Ogilvy and AKQA, according to executives familiar with the matter.

This isn't the first time WPP has gone into a pitch with a dedicated team strategy – a move which has picked up steam over the past few years. Perhaps the most well known and successful of the bunch is WPP's Team Detroit for Ford. WPP has emulated that concept for other marketers, resulting in dedicated groups such as Team Mazda, Team Lincoln and teams for MillerCoors and Bank of America.

MEC has worked with Chanel for more than a dozen years. Blandine Pillot Velin, the global media and brand research director for Chanel, according to her LinkedIn profile, is a vet of the WPP media shop. She left her role of MEC Directrice Generale (that translates to managing director) in 2008 to join Chanel. Prior to moving in-house, she had spent 14 years at MEC.

Omnicom Media Group and Publicis Groupe's Starcom Mediavest Group also participated in the review, according to industry executives. Agency representatives either could not be reached for comment or referred calls to the client.

Chanel spent $139 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2012, with magazines accounting for $78.3 million. In 2011, it spent $130 million on total U.S. measured media.

While print assumed a huge chunk of Chanel's media budget last year, the company also took its chances on TV with its first TV ad starring a man. It was a strange campaign for Chanel No. 5 perfume, starring Brad Pitt, which made its debut to harsh reviews late last year.

Chanel is owned by the Wertheimer brothers whose grandfather had close ties to the late founder and designer Coco Chanel. Ms. Chanel was known for being one of the first designers to introduce comfortable, simple and professional sportswear for women. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld is the current creative director and head designer for the century-old Chanel brand.

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