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General Mills is consolidating its $450 million U.S. media buying business, according to executives familiar with the review. In the mix are roster shops Zenith Media, which is jointly owned by Cordiant Communications Group and Publicis; the media department at Omnicom's OMD in New York; and Interpublic Group of Cos' Universal McCann, which has a relationship with General Mills outside of the U.S. through a joint venture with Nestle, a client of McCann Erickson.

Media buying for General Mills is currently divided between the shops by media, not by brands. Zenith and OMD each handle portions of national broadcast.

The move to consolidate media is likely part of the marketer's preparations for the acquisition of Pillsbury; the deal is expected to close by the beginning of 2002. With the addition of Pillsbury, General Mills will have $12.2 billion in annual sales and a portfolio ranging from Yoplait yogurt to Pillsbury's ready-to-bake cookies that it hopes to leverage to gain cost-savings in media. Request for proposals were sent out to the agencies earlier this week. Although there is no timetable, it is expected that the food marketer will make a decision soon.

Kraft Foods, which recently acquired Nabisco, likewise announced in December that it was consolidating its media with agency of record Bcom3's Starcom MediaVest.

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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