Universal McCann | UM

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Universal McCann - now generally known as UM - is a global media planning and buying network often aligned with McCann Erickson, and reporting as part of Interpublic's Mediabrands umbrella. It was named Media Agency of the Year by both the leading US trade papers in early 2003, but subsequently suffered a string of account losses which severely dented its reputation. Parent group Interpublic initiated an an overhaul of the management team in 2005 in a bid to halt the leakage of further major clients. That process was finally completed in 2008 and the following year witnessed a string of account gains in Universal McCann's home market, enough to earn it the accolade as US Media Agency of the Year once again for 2009 from Adweek and as Comeback Agency of the Year from AdAge. It won that accolade again in 2016 for two more major wins, but at an international level, a prolonged turnaround has been harder to deliver. It remains among the lower ranks of international networks.

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The Adbrands Company Profile of Universal McCann summarises the agency's history and current operations and contains the following links.

UM | Universal McCann website

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 7th Jan 2016: In Australia, UM triumphed over Starcom to win media for Australia's second largest telecoms provider Optus, including its satellite Virgin Mobile. Separately, Interpublic announced the merger of its Canadian media agency M2 into sister Initiative. UM will continue to operate separately. The closure of M2 follows IPG's recent acquisition of indie Media Experts, which will continue to operate as a standalone unit focused mainly on local rather than international clients.

Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Dec 2015: Another big "mediapalooza" review reached its conclusion with the decision by L'Oreal USA to consolidate all its US media planning and buying with GroupM's MEC. The WPP-owned shop had previously managed local planning for selected luxury brands, but now wins digital from Publicis network DigitasLBi and TV and print from Interpublic's UM. Billings are estimated at around $850m annually. It is MEC's biggest win by far this year. Publicis Groupe moved quickly to limit negative media coverage over another account loss so soon after the P&G decision last week, pointing out that the L'Oreal digital business represented only 0.1% of its annual revenues, or little more than $10m.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Nov 2015: Interpublic scored a significant victory as another of the major "mediapalooza" account reviews reached its conclusion. Johnson & Johnson is to consolidate all global media planning and buying with J3, the dedicated unit within the UM network. J3 already managed media planning for Johnson & Johnson in North America, but took back buying duties from OMD in September. Now it will also take over overall control of J&J's media business in Asia Pacific from OMD, and adds responsibility in several important European markets (including the UK, France and Russia) where the business had previously been managed by Primus, a division of MEC. Total billings are around $2.6bn globally, including $1bn in the US. UM's latest gain from the consolidation comes to probably another $1bn.

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Oct 2015: In another big mediapalooza realignment, General Mills followed up its earlier transfer of US media to Mindshare, but taking the same action for its international operations in Europe, Australasia, and some other countries. The biggest loser is UM, which handled most major European markets and Australia. Mindshare will take on most of the business, but with support from other GroupM agencies in cases of local client conflict. In another blow to UM, that agency has surrendered the global media account for German chemicals giant BASF to ZenithOptimedia's new spin-off unit Blue 449, the micro-network's first multi-market win.

Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Sep 2015: So far at least, Interpublic's Mediabrands division is holding its own in the so-called "mediapalooza" review frenzy. Johnson & Johnson's US media business wasn't officially under review (unlike the international assignments) but this week, the healthcare giant said it would be transferring media buying for that mammoth account back to J3, the dedicated unit under the umbrella of IPG's UM network. The assignment had been handled for the past year by OMD.

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Free to all users | see full profile for current activities: Universal was one of the last of the big media shops to get a global roll-out. The Universal McCann brand originally launched in the UK in 1975 when a separate financial and recruitment advertising unit was established, but it was shut down in the mid-1980s. The brand was resurrected in 1990 by McCann-Erickson Manchester, as the title for a standalone media-buying shop. A year later, McCann and sister agency Lowe combined media operations in some European countries under the Universal Media name, but this operation also closed after Interpublic acquired media agency Western International, which took over some media responsibilities for Lowe. The media buying department of McCann London was eventually split out in 1995 as Universal McCann. Media planners were rolled into Universal McCann over the next few years.

Encouraged by the success of Universal McCann London, the group confirmed plans to extend the brand to other territories in 1999. The first was the all-powerful US market, where in-house media departments (billing around $5bn under the divisional title of Universal Media) were rebranded as Universal McCann in November. Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Thailand subsequently underwent the same conversion process.

Initially Universal was set up primarily to manage the business of existing McCann advertising clients, rather than media-only accounts whose advertising was handled elsewhere. However during 2000, the pace of new business picked up considerably. The agency added a number of specialist units during 2000 and 2001. Among the most notable was the Universal McCann Entertainment Group which moved the agency back into television programming. UM brokered sponsorship for Coca-Cola of teen drama Young Americans, and attached several of its clients to a 2000 Christmas Special. In 2003 the agency was the first of the media majors to appoint a creative director, media and entertainment branding specialist Alan Schulman, to develop creative and strategic messages and formats for wireless, ITV and broadband media initiatives.

The agency was dealt a severe blow in late 2003 when key client Coca-Cola shifted its entire US media account, worth an estimated $350m, out of Universal McCann and into Publicis-owned Starcom MediaVest. A year later, Nestle moved its $400m media account as well, and the agency also lost several pieces of business across Europe for L'Oreal in 2005. GM Mediaworks, an independently branded unit within Universal McCann US, was shut down after it lost media buying duties for General Motors in 2005. Robin Kent, chairman & CEO of Universal McCann, left the agency abruptly in March 2005. Since than the network has fought hard to prevent further losses, and appeared to have regained some stability by 2006. see full profile for current activities

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