Zenith wins ExxonMobil media account

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Zenith Media Services drove off with the $100 million global media-buying assignment for ExxonMobil's consolidated fuels-marketing and lubes-marketing account.

Zenith Media, with headquarters in London, defeated three incumbents: Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest Worldwide, which handled ExxonMobil business in Latin America; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, which handled Exxon lubricants along with sibling McCann-Erickson Worldwide; and Omnicom's OMD Worldwide, which worked on sibling DDB Worldwide's ExxonMobil branding business. Zenith and Aegis Group's Carat were the only nonincumbents in the review.

 "We were first with unbundled media on a big scale and we were the first global media agency," said John Perris, the agency's worldwide CEO. "Our people work well together. They are an effective team and that counts a lot in pitches."

Richard Hamilton, CEO of Zenith Media North America, added, "We are thrilled with this appointment and look forward to helping ExxonMobil maximize returns on its global media investments." The bulk of the ad spending is expected to be in the U.S. and Europe.

ExxonMobil, in a statement last week, confirmed Zenith Media had won the business and said the companies were "finalizing details of the agreement."

One week earlier, Zenith Media North America in New York quietly conquered Verizon's estimated $500 million media-buying account, fending off a field of formidable incumbents: Grey Global Group's MediaCom; WPP Group's MindShare; both New York; and TN Media, Chicago. So far this year, Zenith has racked up an estimated $1 billion in new business, raising its profile in the highly competitive chase by newly consolidated media agencies for newly consolidated clients.

ExxonMobil's move is the latest consolidation by the marketer. Formed in late 1999 with the merger of two former competitors, the oil companies' $74 billion marriage was then the largest in U.S. history. Mobil had been the top marketer of passenger fuel in the U.S., with a 9% market share.

 These are good days for the oil industry, marked by tight supplies and rising prices. Exxon Mobil, like other oil giants, reported record third-quarter profits in October. Revenue jumped by 20% from the same period a year ago to $58.85 billion. When announcing the results, Exxon Mobil said its earnings of nearly $4.3 billion (vs. $2.2 billion a year ago) were the biggest ever reported by a company in a single quarter.

ExxonMobil, consolidated its $100 million global fuel-marketing ad account at DDB Worldwide earlier this year after a shootout between that agency and McCann-Erickson.

According to Advertising Age's list of top media specialist companies, Zenith Media ranks 12th in worldwide billings with $7.4 billion, and 9th in U.S. billings with $2.8 billion.

Among the agency's U.S. wins this year are AstraZeneca, HSBC Bank and Prime Retail discount shops. In Europe, the agency grabbed the consolidated $100 million Rover assignment. Zenith recently lost Hewlett-Packard Co. as a client when the tech marketer consolidated its media business at Publicis Group's Optimedia and Hal Riney last month. Zenith had handled HP's $50 million U.S. broadcast business account.

Copyright November 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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