Unilever Keeps $1B Western Europe Media Biz With Mindshare

Decision Comes After Agency Wins Marketer's North America Account; Review Leads to Little Roster Movement

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Mindshare has matched its win of Unilever's $800 million North American media business with a clean sweep of Western Europe. The WPP-owned agency has retained its $1.1 billion media planning and buying business in the U.K., Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and the Nordics, as well as keeping hold of the business in India and Thailand.

After the seven-month review, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media held on to its Unilever business in Colombia, Argentina and Russia, and picked up the business in Mexico; Omnicom Group's Media Direction won the account in Poland.

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In late December, Unilever announced that PHD had won its $450 million business in China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, which was previously handled by Mindshare and Initiative.

The China account was one of few significant changes made to Unilever's roster following the lengthy review, leaving industry insiders speculating that the whole process was purely an exercise to enable Unilever to extract better deals from their agencies. In Mexico, the account moved to Initiative from Mindshare, and in Canada from PHD to Mindshare.

When the review was announced in July 2009, Unilever's VP-global media, Laura Klauberg, said, "As we drive media innovation and improved value for Unilever, and as dramatic changes in the media landscape reshape our communication needs, we are continuing to evaluate the services and capabilities of our media agency partners across all disciplines. Unilever has undergone significant change over the last four or five years and this review gives us the opportunity to find the optimum solutions for our business."

Last week Unilever reported a 27% drop in fourth-quarter net income. The consumer goods giant has adopted a high-volume, low-price strategy to ride out the recession, which has been working to a degree: There was a 1.8% rise in sales for the quarter, achieved through a 5% rise in volume and a 3.1% drop in prices.

In a statement on the result of the media review, Ms. Klauberg said, "We are extremely pleased with the outstanding portfolio of agencies that will be working on our behalf around the world. The outcome of the review ... will allow us to reach even more consumers in more effective ways," adding that the marketers will make increasing use of digital and social media.

Recent work by Mindshare for Unilever in Europe and Asia includes the soap brand Omo "Outside Play Foundation" in the Netherlands to highlight the importance of outside play to children and to inspire parents and children into action. In Malaysia they partnered with Friendster to create a Rexteen-branded "room makeover" widget to launch the teen home-decor line.

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