MasterCard has begun an agency review for its global media buying and planning business, issuing a review document to media agencies this week.
It's a sizeable potential account for agencies that don't have a conflicting client in the credit card category. The company spent $126.6 million on domestic measured media in 2012, according to Kantar Media.
Interpublic Group of Cos.' UM is the incumbent on the global business. UM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Update: UM said Wednesday afternoon that it will defend the business.)
"As part of regular business practices, MasterCard regularly reviews and assesses industry resources as part of responsible vendor and agency management," a MasterCard spokesman said in an email. "At this point, we can confirm that MasterCard is conducting a review of our media agency partners. This activity is limited only to the media buying activities and not any other agency relationship. The integrated McCann XBC team will continue to support MasterCard in other marketing activities, including creative, digital and sponsorships/partnerships."
"We have invited Universal McCann to participate in this process and look forward to working with them through this effort," the spokesman added.
In 2010, the financial services giant consolidated its U.S. media-planning and buying business with UM. The shop was already managing the business abroad.
At that time, Chief Marketing Officer Alfredo Gangotena had only been in the role for a few months.
Now new CMO Raja Rajamannar, like Mr. Gangotena before him, is putting the business up for review after only a few months on the job. He joined in August.
Mr. Rajamannar previously spent time in senior roles at two managed health care companies, WellPoint and Humama. Prior to that he spent 15 years at Citigroup, during which time he served as global CMO of the bank's cards and payments business.
For UM, the loss of MasterCard would make a dent, but the shop's global Hershey win this year could soften the blow.
The 2010 consolidation with UM affirmed MasterCard's strategy to keep most of its marketing services shops, including creative, PR, media and digital, within the same holding company. But last October the company replaced IPG's Weber Shandwick with Omnicom's Ketchum for PR, in a sign that it's open to diversifying its agency roster with shops from different holding companies.