WPP wants United Continental Holdings to be the next client for which it creates a dedicated agency, including media buying and planning, digital elements and direct marketing, according to multiple executives familiar with the matter.
"We have a lot of conversations with many parties but nothing has been finalized," said a United spokesman. He wouldn't say anything else on the record.
The airline has been pitched a team of executives from Wunderman, the direct-mail incumbent for the airline, and its data subsidiary KBM; media buying and planning agency MEC; brand consultancy Landor Associates; and Kantar, WPP's research and data arm, according to people familiar with the matter. Multiple executives said that nothing will be decided until early next year.
The Chicago-based airline held its last competitive agency review two years ago following the megamerger between United and Continental. As a result, the airline consolidated its creative and media business with Dentsu's McGarryBowen and independent media shop Horizon.
Agencies mentioned either couldn't be reached or declined to comment.
Recently, United said that it would attempt to cut costs by $2 billion. It's not clear whether the conversations with WPP are closely tied to those efforts. If they are, a change likely will not have a major impact given that United, like most airlines, is not a huge media spender. The company spent $60 million on domestic measured media in 2012, and $33.6 million between January and September this year, according to Kantar Media.
If WPP is successful in creating a team to support the bulk of the airline's marketing services, it'll be another win for its dedicated agency model. Over the past two years, WPP has aggressively pushed the model to win a handful of large new clients, including GlaxoSmithKline, Chanel, Samsung, Bank of America and Chinese telecom Huawei.