20-year incumbent: Universal McCann loses in consolidation

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Universal McCann is playing down the loss of Coca-Cola Co.'s media buying business in the U.S., with company executives claiming it was not a high-earning account and insisting the company still has a major global relationship with the beverage company. Even so, the immediate hand-off of all duties to Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group-which already has media planning-is a blow to the agency's collective ego.

"It was a difficult call to make. We've worked together for years and we're friends," said Coca-Cola Co.'s North America VP-Integrated Communications David Raines.

The agency had held the account for 20 years in the U.S, according to a spokeswoman for Universal McCann, part of Interpublic Group of Cos. She said there were no plans for layoffs, adding that the agency still has the business in 60 countries and that its WorldGroup unit handles work such as event marketing in 100 countries.

Mr. Raines said Starcom Media- Vest Group won the account-which runs for one year-because both the people and their technology were smarter than the other contenders, which included Aegis Group's Carat and WPP Group's MindShare. He stressed that Creative Artists Agency's duties in entertainment marketing would remain the same. Coca-Cola had required pitch participants to detail their experience in entertainment marketing.

Starcom MediaVest Group is known to have presented its client with a range of optimization tools. The agency also demonstrated how it could marry volume metrics and Nielsen ratings data to produce details of shows watched by heavy Coke drinkers.

China business

Separately, Coca-Cola Co. also handed Starcom MediaVest Group media planning and buying business for all brands in mainland China. Billings were not disclosed, but executives said the account is worth at least $30 million. The win includes "integrated communication planning, media execution, and strategic analysis/media tracking capability for the company's entire portfolio of beverages within China," according to Brenda Lee, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman in Shanghai, including soft drinks, juices, teas and waters.

Four agencies originally took part in the China pitch, which began last month-Starcom, Carat, Universal McCann and the incumbent, Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia. Earlier this month, the review narrowed to Starcom and Carat.

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