Media agencies

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It was the year the media buying behemoths were going to wield their collective budgets to hammer out favorable TV deals for clients. Instead, the networks walked away crowing in 2002, and observers expect that history to repeat itself in 2003.

According to a recent study by Morgan Anderson Consulting and Mediamark Research, the top 100 advertisers are planning to spend more on network TV in 2003.

"Sixty-three percent of those we surveyed planned to spend more in television. That's a lot," said Arthur Anderson, managing principal, Morgan Anderson. Fifteen percent said they would spend less and 22% would spend the same. The next highest category was spot TV, according to the study: 46% of advertisers will spend more in spot next year, 27% will spend less, and 27% will spend the same.

Look for media strategy and communications practice to become an important offering at media agencies, with the big agencies borrowing from small independent media shops, mostly in the U.K., that make their bread and butter by planning media, rather than buying. In 2002, Omnicom's TBWA launched Connect; OMD called their strategy unit Ignition; WPP Group's MindShare's was The Wow Factory. The latest to arrive: Real World Communications at Grey Global Group's MediaCom.

age of small shops

The acquisition of Bcom3Group by Publicis Groupe put Zenith Optimedia Group and Starcom MediaVest Group under one roof, and will be a hot topic throughout 2003. Publicis' media agencies, with about $37 billion in global billings, will be second only to Interpublic Group of Cos. "My crystal ball says there will be merging going on at Publicis," said Jim Surmanek, CEO of Media Analysis Plus.

Finally, expect a reaction to the giant consolidations this year as small media players wade in. London media strategist Naked is looking to open an office in the states. Dennis Holt is also threatening a serious comeback. The founder of Initiative Media and a close friend of Walt Disney Co., Mr. Holt will likely open his own small shop next year, and many observers say he will take a run at Disney, which is at Starcom.

"This may be the age of the small to mid-size agency," said Mr. Surmanek.

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