UM wins AmEx global media review

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American Express has chosen Interpublic Group of Co.'s UM as its new global agency for strategic media planning and buying following a review that began earlier this year.

The brand previously worked with GroupM's Mindshare, as well as with Publicis Media's Digitas for some digital media work. AmEx said it will continue to work with Digitas on creative assignments in the U.S.

AmEx spent $563.8 million on measured media worldwide in 2016, which is a 21 percent increase from the year earlier, according to Ad Age's DataCenter. In the U.S. last year, it spent $204.6 million on measured media, according to Kantar Media.

"Our goal was to select the best talent and leverage the best agency partner around the world to help us elevate our brand, deepen relationships with our customers and prospects, and drive greater marketing efficiency and effectiveness across our business," Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer at AmEx, said in a statement, citing UM's capabilities across media, technology, data and insights.

In the spring, just weeks before putting its media business into review, AmEx debuted its first work and new global brand positioning, "Powerful Backing," from McGarryBowen. The financial brand selected the Dentsu-owned creative agency as lead agency last year; Ogilvy formerly handled the bulk of such business and is still involved with international work. In the rebranding, AmEx is promoting the dual taglines, "Don't Live Life Without It," and "Don't Do Business Without It" to emphasize its support for consumers in both their personal and professional lives. Executives said on a recent earnings call that the brand is inccreasing its marketing spending to support the brand refresh.

International expansion has been a focus for AmEx as it seeks to grow beyond its U.S. roots with new premium product offerings targeted at higher end consumers.

"There is a large premium segment outside the United States, and it is really important for us to continue to refresh the product line on a global basis," Steve Squeri, who took the helm of the brand as chief executive early this year, said on a recent conference call with analysts.

The brand has also been ramping up its co-branding efforts in recent months. In June, it announced a new small business credit card with Amazon, following similar deals with Marriott and Hilton.

Such efforts are paying off. In the second quarter, AmEx reported a 9 percent increase in total revenue to $10 billion, along with a 21 percent net income rise to $1.6 billion compared with the year-earlier period. The company plans to report third-quarter earnings later this month.

MediaLink ran the review.

In a memo to staff, UM CEO Daryl Lee called the win a "Herculean effort completed in a very short amount of time."

This is another large win for UM, which was named Quicken Loans' media agency last month. Shortly after, the media agency successfully defended its Charles Schwab account following an agency review.

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