Unprecedented Review Includes Surprise Participant

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

CINCINNATI ( -- Procter & Gamble Co. today confirmed that five agencies are pitching its estimated $4 billion U.S. marketing communication planning account -- including a direct marketing shop not generally

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associated with media planning, Omnicom Group's Targetbase of Irving, Texas.

Others include two media planning incumbents, Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group and Grey Global Group's Mediacom. Havas' MPG, which handles P&G media business outside the U.S. and formerly had a role under former P&G roster shop Arnold, New York, is also pitching the business, as is Aegis Group's Carat of New York.

Unprecedented review
The review is unprecedented for P&G in several ways. It fully unbundles media planning both from media buying and creative agencies. And the newly anointed media planning agency or agencies will become the central player among a host of creative and specialty agencies, with planning responsibility across the full range of communication options, including promotion and public relations, rather than simply media.

A P&G spokeswoman said the review should be complete by early July.

P&G heard pitches last week, including one from the main incumbent, Starcom MediaVest Group, headed by Publicis' chairman, Maurice Levy, said people familiar with the review.

Starcom MediaVest Group, which also handles P&G's U.S. media buying duties -- which are not subject to the review -- last year formed a dedicated unit to handle all media planning for P&G brands handled by Publicis roster shops, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Kaplan Thaler Group. Grey now handles most planning for the rest of the business.

Media planning role expanded
The current review expands the role of media planning at P&G to encompass broader communication planning duties -- including such areas as promotion and public relations -- similar to an approach rival Unilever adopted in 2001. Either of P&G's incumbent agency holding companies would add to their responsibilities just by retaining planning duties for brands they now handle. But they also risk losing business to one another or to one of the challengers.

The addition of Targetbase to the mix adds a wild card to what's already an unprecedented review for P&G.

Targetbase is primarily a direct-marketing agency but in recent years has increasingly sold media planning services. The agency uses media targeting methodologies that were in part developed by and licensed from P&G. And it applies to TV and other media customer-relationship marketing-style systems usually used to measure return on investment for direct-marketing vehicles.

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Claire Atkinson contributed to this report.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Omnicom Group's Targetbase was formed by a merger of M/A/R/C and Rapp Collins. Targetbase, founded in 1978 and acquired by Omnicom in 1999, is not merged with either of the agencies, though those two did merge database operations in 2001.

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