UM | Universal McCann advertising & marketing assignments

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Universal McCann - now generally known as UM - is the larger of Interpublic's two global media planning and buying networks. For 2020, COMvergence estimated global billings of $9.2bn. Although it is traditionally aligned with McCann Worldgroup, it reports as part of Interpublic's Mediabrands umbrella. In a handful of smaller markets, UM and Initiative operate as a single merged company under the banner Universal Media. UM 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 were 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. Mattel outside North America, Levi's Americas and Aetna were important gains in 2019. J3 is a dedicated division within UM that handles media for Johnson & Johnson, probably the network's biggest individual client; UM Studios is the network's inhouse content creation business. Eileen Kiernan, previously head of J3, was appointed as global CEO of UM in 2019, following the promotion of her predecessor Daryl Lee to CEO of parent entity Mediabrands.

Capsule checked 25th September 2020

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Which clients does UM handle? Find out more from Adbrands Account Assignments

Who are the competitors of UM? See ranking of Leading Media Agency Brands

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Marketer Moves 19th Jan 2022: New CEO at UM USA. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Adbrands Daily Update 19th Jun 2019: Johnson & Johnson was awarded the Grand Prix in Entertainment at the Cannes Lions festival for a bold 50-minute documentary produced by UM's branded content division in partnership with Highway 61 Films and prodco Saville. '5B' tells the story of the nurses who staffed San Francisco General Hospital's first dedicated ward for for newly diagnosed AIDS patients, as that epidemic spread in the early 1980s. "A brave idea, beautifully told and brilliantly executed," said the judges.

Adbrands Daily Update 19th Mar 2019: There were two significant wins for UM this week. The agency picked up media duties for restaurant chain TGI Friday's, and was also confirmed as the new US agency for home and personal care giant Henkel, now the local #2 in laundry after P&G. That transfer actually took place late last year, out of OMD and Mindshare, but has only been announced this week.

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.

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