The incumbent is defending, according to a Masterfoods spokeswoman. Others in the mix include Bcom3 Group's Starcom Media, Omnicom Group's PHD, Publicis Groupe and Cordiant Communications Group's Zenith Media, and WPP Group's Mediaedge:CIA.
Ken Rogers, corporate VP-global marketing for Masterfoods parent Mars, said the media buying review stems not from any master plan to shake up or align buying around the globe, but rather is "as simple as when contracts come up, or we think we might come up with a different approach."
A Masterfoods spokesman said a decision is expected in two or three weeks.
MediaCom referred all calls to the marketer.
MediaCom will continue to handle all of the marketer's U.S. out-of-home media. MediaVest, which is part of the Starcom Media- Vest Group, a media holding division of Bcom3, handles all of Masterfoods' broadcast media buying business. Zenith handles Masterfoods' sports buying.
"There is an internal debate going on at [Masterfoods]," said an executive close to the review. "One group believes the media buying for print and broadcast should be kept separate and another group that says it should be combined at one agency."
Masterfoods' products include chocolate brands such as M&M's and Snickers, candy brands including Starburst and Skittles, pet foods including Whiskas and Pedigree, and food brands such as Uncle Ben's and 100% organic line Seeds of Change. According to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, Mars spent $53 million on print advertising in 2001.
The review follows a shift by Masterfoods creative accounts from Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles for brands including Uncle Ben's ($30 million) and Whiskas ($18 million) to Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif. BBDO Worldwide, New York, picked up Skittles ($19 million).
Another executive in the review said those recent shifts slowed down the media review process. "It threw a monkey wrench in the works," said the executive. "Now they are pushing forward with it." Media planning for Masterfoods' brands is done by the marketer's creative shops.
Mars last week consolidated its $190 million media planning account in Germany with MediaCom and Media Plus, a subsidiary of Serviceplan, Dusseldorf and Munich, Germany. Earlier this month in the U.K., the candy and foods marketer consolidated media planning with MediaCom.
Addressing the shifts recently in various European markets, Mr. Rogers said the company's approach in some cases is to allow for local decision-making on agency assignments, giving business to "the best people in a given marketplace."
Who: Masterfoods USA
What: U.S. print buying review
Billings: $53 million
Incumbent: Grey Global's MediaCom.
Contenders: Bcom3's Starcom Media, Omnicom's PHD, Publicis and Cordiant Communications's Zenith Media, and WPP's Mediaedge:CIA