Microsoft Throws $1 Billion Media Business Into Review

Incumbent Universal McCann Expected to Participate

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NEW YORK ( -- Microsoft launched the first major review of the year last night at about 8 p.m. when it circulated a request-for-information document for its more than $1 billion media business, according to numerous industry executives with knowledge of the situation.

The incumbent on the account is Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, which, not surprisingly, is expected to defend the account.

Microsoft, which also serves as a vendor for most media shops, ranks No. 32 on Ad Age's 100 Leading National Advertisers report, with its domestic advertising budget alone totaling more than $1.1 billion.

It's not known which agencies or holding companies received the RFI, but numerous industry executives with knowledge of the situation predicted that nearly every holding company will be looking to take part in this plum review.

UM has had an incredibly successful run for the past year and a half. The agency won the $700 million consolidation of L'Oreal's media-buying account and the $343 million consolidation of MasterCard's U.S. media-planning and -buying business. In the past 18 months the agency also won the BMW, Mini, Chrysler, Dyson, Charles Schwab and Applebee's accounts.

UM referred calls to the client.

The last agency change Microsoft made was in August, when it shifted its cloud-computing business from WPP's JWT to Interpublic's Deutsch.

That account and the plum Xbox business, which is handled by Interpublic's West Coast shop Agency 215, are now the only stable pieces of Microsoft business for Interpublic. The holding company had once been the primary partner for the tech company, but a few cracks in that relationship have emerged. Microsoft has slowly shifted several accounts -- from digital-marketing duties to Microsoft Office -- out of McCann Worldgroup agencies and into places like MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Wunderman and JWT.

One executive with knowledge of the situation downplayed the move, describing it as a standard exercise that Microsoft undertakes to assess its agency relationships. "This is a standard process for them," the executive said. "UM and Microsoft have been partners for so long and they need to assess where things are. Things are moving in many different directions and markets, so this is a pulse check."

A request for comment from Microsoft was not returned by press time.

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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