Assignment Worth $1.2 Billion; Major Blow to Initiative

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Unilever today said it has centralized its $1.2 billion European media planning and buying account with WPP Group's MindShare, a major blow to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative, which
holds the business in most major European markets, including the U.K.

Includes buying and planning
Unexpectedly, the shift also includes planing for advertising media as well as buying, a facet of the account originally thought to have been unaffected.

MindShare previously held the Unilever business in Germany and Italy but will take over in most other countries effective Jan. 1, Unilever said, subject to finalizing the terms of the agreement.

Aegis Group's Carat, a non-roster agency, also pitched for the business; Omnicom Group's OMD Europe pulled out of the review at an earlier stage.

Looking for savings
Unilever called the review in May and said it hoped to achieve savings of $48 million by consolidating its media accounts, while insisting the review did not "signal dissatisfaction or criticism of current agencies." Previously, Unilever had conducted media reviews on a country-by-country basis.

The pitch was overseen by Unilever's global media director, Alan Rutherford. In a statement, Mr. Rutherford said, "We'd like to thank Initiative for its diligent performance during its tenure on the account. However, Unilever believes that it needs to streamline its external support structure and services in line with its drive for simplification."

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