But a closer look at global media reviews totaling billions of dollars over the last year shows that no matter who wins, marketers rarely stick to a single agency globally.
"I think the reality of global deals of any significance is still fairly small in this current day and age," said a top media executive at an agency pitching for both Gillette and Siemens. "They are more smoke and mirrors really."
Marketers love global media reviews. But they have to contend with conflicts, media networks' spotty coverage of the world, especially in Asia and Latin America, and their own inability to make a decision from headquarters work in the far corners of the globe.
"Certain agencies are better suited to make global consolidation happen than others, and it depends a lot on the clients buying into the idea," said Murray Dudgeon, exec VP-worldwide operations director at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann. "If the clients are aligned and have clearly defined objectives, then it can work. It's when you have people on the client side who perhaps haven't thought it through what it is they are looking for, then they have a problem selling it down the line."
Germany's Siemens, for example, can't seem to find a contender without a conflict for its global mobile-phone business. Siemens' current roster includes Publicis Groupe's Optimedia in the U.K., France, Argentina and Australia, and WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia in Germany. But Mediaedge:cia handles rival Sony Ericsson's mobile phones in Asia. And Optimedia won't be sending anyone from Asia to the Siemens review. In Asia, where Optimedia is tiny, sibling Zenith Media's CEO oversees Optimedia and Zenith handles Nokia in Asia.
According to one agency executive in the review, Siemens is not asking agencies to pitch the U.S. account because the marketer doesn't do as much business here as in the rest of the world. "How can the U.S. be left out of a global media review?" asked the executive. He speculated that the account may end up, like many others, split between different shops.
Siemens had a big meeting with media agency contenders last week in Germany, and Gillette heard a second round of pitches two weeks ago.
The Gillette review pits regional incumbents MindShare, OMD and Universal McCann against each other for the whole world. Gillette is not a big media player in any one market, fragmenting its spending among many brands spread out across very different markets, media owners, rules and measurement standards.
"The world is not as small as we think it is," said Jim Surmanek, CEO of media consultancy Media Analysis Plus.
Most global pitches call for border-crossing ideas, qualitative strategy, and sharing resources. But in the end, according to many media executives, the pitch is about saving money.
"When you cross borders ... you have different levels of expertise, creativity and clout," Mr. Surmanek said. "Therefore a global consolidation is really a compromise driven by a need for lower fees, period."
But other agencies creep in. Carat is Adidas' global media agency, but Omnicom's PHD has the U.K. business. Philips Electronics picked Carat for its global business a year ago, but Bcom3 Group's MediaVest keeps Latin America until Carat is capable of handling that region. Shell Oil consolidated its $163 million media business with Grey Global Group's MediaCom in November, but a Shell global ad executive said that in practice the consolidation is just at the European level.
Until this year, Lego had about five media planning agencies. In January, the marketer moved all media planning internationally to WPP's TME360, a sibling to Y&R Advertising, which replaced Lego's previous 35 creative agencies. Now Bcom3's Starcom, Lego's former agency for the U.S. and part of Europe, does U.S. media planning.
"After a period of five or six months we found that it wasn't working with just one. Although two is much better than five or six," said Francesco Ciccolella, Lego's senior VP-global brand communications.
He said global media accounts are "not possible yet. It seems to me that there is no such thing as a truly global [media] network."
contributing: bill britt, jack neff, normandy madden