Wave of Media Reviews Means $1 Billion in Potential Upside, Omnicom Says

Agency Holding Giant Not in Reviews Including Citi, Coca-Cola and L'Oréal

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John Wren.
John Wren. Credit: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg
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Omnicom is defending $1.2 billion in media billings as part of this year's unprecedented number of simultaneous media buying and planning reviews by major marketers, the agency holding company said on Tuesday.

"There is more media business up for review from large markets at the present time than I personally have ever seen before," CEO John Wren said during the earnings call.

Some have argued that marketers from Procter & Gamble to Visa put their media accounts in review partly as a way to seek more transparency from agencies following allegations that U.S. shops allow undisclosed rebates influence their work.

But analysts didn't raise the subject during the call, and Mr. Wren attributed the activity to the increasingly complex landscape. "The rise of digital, data and analytics has given marketers the ability to more precisely understand how they should be using media," he said. "There are more media channels and online video available to consumers. Advertisers want to make sure they have the right strategy in place."

Omnicom shares with rivals some of the accounts it is defending, and estimates that there is $1 billion in "upside potential" if its efforts are successful. Mr. Wren said it is not participating in a handful of the reviews, however, including those of 21st Century Fox, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Coty and L'Oréal.

Last week, the company won the Unilever Australia media business, following the win of the global search business, said Mr. Wren. It expects most of the reviews to wrap up by October.

Despite the complexity that Mr. Wren said is driving the surge of reviews, he said he believes marketers will keep their accounts within the big four agency networks -- WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and Interpublic -- instead of turning to more purely digital players. "I don't see money being diverted to these small ad tech players at this point."

The company is investing in data and analytics through its media agency network's data and technology group Annalect.

The company is investing in data and analytics through its media agency network's data and technology group Annalect. Accuen, the trading arm of Annalect, achieved $30 million in organic revenue growth during the second quarter.

Media will also remain an M&A focus as Omnicom looks to boost scale and capability in its lucrative business. Mr. Wren referred to a couple acquisitions in media he's hoping "will get accomplished in the back half of this year."

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