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General Mills is talking to four agencies as it looks to further consolidate its $450 million broadcast media-buying business in the U.S. to a single partner, said Rick Hosfield, vice president-advertising for the behemoth food marketer.

In addition to meeting with its existing U.S. media buyers -- Zenith Media, jointly owned by Publicis Groupe and Cordiant Communications, and Omnicom's OMD -- General Mills is also considering Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, which it works with through its joint venture with Cereal Partners Nestle in Europe, and Interpublic's Initiative Media. General Mills' creative roster includes Interpublic's Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, Publicis' Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and Omnicom's DDB, Chicago.

The decision will be made before mid-April, Mr. Hosfield said.

"Our viewpoint is that we're already consolidated, but that we're refining from two [agencies] down to one," he said.

With the move, which Mr. Hosfield said has been in the works for awhile, General Mills is "looking at opportunities to gain further efficiencies, with an eye toward global leverage."

Mr. Hosfield said the decision to further consolidate does not stem from the company's impending acquisition of Diageo PLC's Pillsbury, and he shirked away comparisons to the recent media consolidations of Kraft Foods and Unilever Bestfoods.

"Those other companies weren't consolidated, whereas we have been, and now we're just taking a baby step to make it complete," he said.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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