TikTok sends global media buying business to Zenith
A TikTok spokesperson confirmed to Ad Age that the video-sharing app has appointed Publicis Media's Zenith as its new global media buying agency of record.
Zenith takes that account from Omnicom Media Group's PHD, which only won the business in August of last year. Mediapost, which first reported the account shift, wrote that PHD was only awarded a one-year contract with TikTok last year, which is unusual as agency-of-record contracts are typically multiyear agreements.
One person close to the matter tells Ad Age that PHD did compete to defend the business. Lead global buying duties were awarded to Zenith following a competitive pitch that involved "multiple holding companies," according to that person.
The TikTok spokesperson declined to comment further on its new partnership with Zenith or on its split with PHD.
A Publicis Media spokesperson did not return requests for comment and an Omnicom Media Group spokesperson declined to comment.
PHD had won lead buying and planning duties for TikTok across all its channels worldwide in August 2019. The only exception was the London market, for which PHD sibling agency Hearts & Science won lead media duties at the time. It is unclear if Hearts & Science still services that market.
Interestingly, PHD won the assignment even though it has a potential client conflict with Google, for which the agency also handles lead media duties. Google's YouTube is a major TikTok rival.
The media agency shift to Zenith comes as TikTok’s owner ByteDance negotiates a possible deal with Microsoft to sell off the U.S. portion of its business to appease the U.S. government following President Donald Trump's claims that the app is a national security threat. The deal would pose a further competitive threat to PHD client Google.
Before the appointment of PHD, TikTok worked with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative in the U.S. on a project basis.
TikTok has seemed to bounce around between agency partners in the last few years.
The company has worked with creative agencies such as RPA, Channel, Sid Lee and Adam&EveNYC. Ad Age reported in December 2019 that TikTok had ended its partnership with RPA, just six months after hiring the Santa Monica, California-based independent agency.
At the time of its split with RPA, Ad Age spoke to four different executives at various creative shops who described TikTok as an unusually difficult client. The executives claimed at the time that TikTok had been demanding "unachievable" deliverables with lowball pricing and was quick to abandon projects midstream.
The TikTok spokesperson declined to comment on its creative agency partnerships so it is unclear what shops remain on its roster.
According to COMvergence estimates, TikTok spent $8.5 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2019—$3 million offline and $5.5 million on digital platforms.
Contributing: Garett Sloane