MediaVest, Dumped in April, Returns as $600 Million Finalist

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NEW YORK ( -- The $600 million review for Philips Electronics' consolidated global media buying and planning business has taken a turn worthy of a soap opera.

Two months after it was dropped from the review -- and from Philips' roster -- Bcom3 Group's MediaVest has returned as a finalist. That has clouded the fate of another finalist, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media. Executives close to the review said Initiative has been dropped, although Initiative CEO Lou Schultz said as far he knew, his company was still a contender.

The other finalist is Aegis Group's Carat.

Secrecy and surprises
The Dutch marketer is known for its secrecy and surprises. Late last year, it stunned the industry when it yanked its creative assignments from Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG without warning, consolidating that business at Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. DMB&B is a Bcom3 Group sibling to MediaVest.

MediaVest's return to the review is believed to have come at the urging of Philips' North American executives, who have been happy with the media agency's work for the marketer. MediaVest, which handles broadcast buying for consumer electronics and personal-care products, is one of three media shops with Philips business in North America.

Havas Advertising's Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, handles print media buying. It was cut from the review after Philips pulled its creative assignments from parent Euro RSCG. Carat Freeman, Boston, a unit of Carat, is responsible for business-to-business print buying. Carat also handles media for Philips in all of Europe, a consolidated assignment it won in 1996.

The media review, launched in February, originally included WPP Group's MindShare, Omnicom's OMD, and Zenith Media, jointly owned by Cordiant Communications Group and Publicis Groupe.

Omnicom's DDB is Philips' main creative agency in the U.S., having won its estimated $300 million consumer electronics and corporate group accounts last December. DMB&B handles domestic appliances, including Norelco and Philishave, lighting and medical systems. Insiders said a decision must be made soon on the media review in order for Philips to get new work on the air by the fourth quarter.

Business could stay split
Agencies in the media review have held a series of meetings with Philips in widely disparate locations, from Singapore to London to New York. Although the marketer said at the start that its goal was to have one worldwide media partner, some executives believe the business could remain split, with MediaVest handling North America and Carat handling Europe.

Philips executives in Europe will not even consider dropping Carat, insiders said, while executives in North America strongly favor MediaVest.

Inge Wallace, a spokeswoman for Philips in Amsterdam, would not comment on the review.

"It will be another couple of weeks before a final decision," she said. "When you do something like this ... you want to make sure you do something in which many people get involved. It is a long process. But that is the right thing to do."

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