ZenithOptimedia Gets L'Oreal's $733 Million French Media Biz

And Parent Publicis Adds Two More Big-Budget Accounts in Europe

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- France's biggest advertiser, L'Oreal, has appointed ZenithOptimedia to its $733 million media-planning and -buying account. The move ends an arrangement that was once traditional among many big European marketers -- handling its own media in-house.

"L'Oreal is probably one of the last major French groups to have in-house media teams," said Steve King, CEO of ZenithOptimedia, owned by Publicis Groupe. Teams from L'Oreal Media will be joining ZenithOptimedia over the next few months, although the assignment is effective from Jan. 1.

Before L'Oreal, Nestle was one of the last holdouts to handle its own media in France -- before moving to ZenithOptimedia last year.

Hard to keep media in-house
Today's fast-changing media world makes it difficult for advertisers to handle their own media, due to complexity and the rapid growth of new media and decline of traditional media. Marketers find it easier and more efficient to hire a media-agency network, and gain access to research, data and expertise.

The L'Oreal win in France strengthens ZenithOptimedia's hold on the cosmetics, perfume and hair-care giant. ZenithOptimedia picked up most of L'Oreal's other European consumer-products business, worth about $1 billion, in 2005, and further wins in the U.S., for Maybelline, followed. Since then, ZenithOptimedia has won additional L'Oreal business in Latin America and Asia.

L'Oreal's brands include L'Oreal Paris, Maybelline, Kiehl's, Lancome, Garnier and Helena Rubenstein, and it also owns the Body Shop. The company relies heavily on celebrity endorsement for its products, using stars such as Claudia Schiffer, Eva Longoria, Penelope Cruz and Linda Evangelista, and has fragrance deals with brands including Diesel, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren.

L'Oreal decline to comment on the shift.

Picks up BT, Yoplait
It was a good day for Publicis Groupe in Europe, with two more wins in addition to L'Oreal. In the U.K., Starcom and Zed Media won a surprise victory with the $130 million BT (formerly British Telecom) media-planning and -buying account. Starcom retained media buying on the business and won the media-planning portion from WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia. Zed Media, part of the ZenithOptimedia group, retains online buying.

Publicis, which has worked with BT for five years, has set up a dedicated BT unit located at the telecom's headquarters, led by BT's head of media, Steve Huddleston.

The third win comes from Yoplait, which appointed Publicis Conseil, Paris, to handle its $65 million account in France. The yogurt company's brands include Yop and Petit Filou. Publicis Conseil beat Omnicom Group's TBWA Paris and CLM BBDO in the review. The incumbent agency, Posternak-Margerit, Paris, won the account in 2006.
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