New York-based Botway does the bulk of Unilever's buying in the U.S., and Interpublic has been eyeing the independent shop ever since word came down earlier this year that Unilever might be planning a review (AA, May 24).
Botway, which counts Bayer Corp. and Abbott Laboratories among its clients, also has entertained offers from Omnicom Group. Omnicom also is in the hunt for the Unilever media business.
PRICE DEPENDS ON ACCOUNT
Interpublic is likely to buy Botway for one price if it retains the Unilever business, and for a lower price if Botway loses the account, according to one executive who has been involved in talks with the shop.
If Botway retains the Unilever business and is bought by Interpublic, it could throw a monkey wrench into the No. 2 agency holding company's negotiations with MacManus Group, New York. MacManus' MediaVest does the TV buying for Unilever rival Procter & Gamble Co.
"I can't see a scenario when IPG does the U.S. buying for both P&G and Unilever," said one top media executive involved in the Unilever review.
Interpublic currently has two shops vying for the Unilever account. One is Western Initiative Media Worldwide, New York, which could pair with Botway in the pitch. The other is McCann-Erickson Worldwide's Universal Media (see related story on Page 64).
For Omnicom, its Creative Media unit is expected to take the lead in the Unilever pitch.
The other contender is WPP Group's Mindshare. Just now being organized in the U.S., Mindshare is WPP's global media brand combining the media units of J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
Initial presentations are scheduled for Nov. 9-10.
In an unusual move, Unilever has asked the participants in the review to help the marketer decide what, exactly, will be up for review.
In one option, the shops can recommend that TV buying be consolidated into a single buying agency of record to also include tactical planning. Strategic planning would stay with the brand agencies.
This division of planning was pioneered a few years ago by P&G, and it gives buyers more flexibility to react to various marketplace changes, including pricing.
In the other option, the shops can recommend a total media planning and buying consolidation.
What options the various players are planning to recommend isn't known, though a number of observers said it's likely McCann will opt for option one.
"They're the AOR for Nestle, and I think they'd only be able to get away with buying for Unilever," said one media executive.
UNILEVER CLUB SHOPS
On a global basis, Unilever's main media shops are Western Initiative and Mindshare. However, McCann and Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide do creative for Unilever and are very much considered part of the marketer's "club" agencies.
Furthermore, Omnicom's Harrison, Young, Personen & Newell, Toronto, is