Universal McCann - now generally known as UM - is a global media planning and buying network traditionally aligned with McCann Worldgroup, 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, and big wins have been matched (and sometimes eclipsed) by equally big defections to other agencies. As a result, UM remains among the lower ranks of international networks. There have been some big gains in 2018 (including American Express globally, Quicken Loans in the US, and the Australian Federal Government) but they were offset by the loss of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles across North America in the closing weeks of the year. Daryl Lee is global CEO.
Capsule checked 17th December 2018
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Adbrands Daily Update 14th Dec 2018: UM suffered a heavy blow with the loss of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles account across North America. Total billings are well in excess of $1bn. The business moves to Starcom. In a memo to staff, quoted by AdAge, UM CEO Daryl Lee made no attempt to hide his bitter disappointment. "This is a hard decision to accept as we didn't lose this pitch for any of the traditional reasons," he wrote. "We didn't lose it based on our product, our people, our pricing or our proposal for the NAFTA region. All of which we had official feedback were more than competitive. We just had a client that in the end felt that making a change would be good for them."
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.
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