Wavemaker (formerly MEC and Maxus)

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Wavemaker is the WPP-owned media agency formed in 2017 from the merger of the old MEC network and smaller sibling Maxus. MEC, itself previously known by the mouthful of Mediaedge:cia, was one of several media networks within WPP, partnering Mindshare and MediaCom, and sitting under the overall umbrella of GroupM. It was formed from the merger in 2002 of The Media Edge, previously a division of Young & Rubicam, with highly regarded Eurocentric media agency CIA, acquired by WPP earlier that year. The complicated Mediaedge:cia tag was officially dropped in 2010 in favour of initials MEC. After a strong decade in the 2000s, performance in the 2010s was rather more bumpy, especially in the US. Global performance was lifted considerably in 2014 by the capture of the consolidated $1bn Vodafone mobile account, MEC's biggest gain for several years. However, the loss of AT&T that year was a serious blow, and in 2017, WPP announced the merger of MEC with smaller sibling Maxus under the new name. The first few months of Wavemaker's existence, though, have been deeply troubled, marked by a succession of departing clients with combined billings well over $1bn. Nevertheless, COMvergence still ranked Wavemaker as the world's #5 media agency in 2018 with billings of $13.1bn.

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Adbrands Daily Update 18th Sep 2019: In one of the year's biggest account switches, Vodafone moved its global media account out of WPP's Wavemaker and into Dentsu Aegis Network's Carat. Billings are estimated at around £400m annually, making it Carat's biggest win so far this year following what has otherwise been quite a quiet time for the network's new business team. Wavemaker will retain Vodafone's media in a handful of countries where it operates as a joint venture with other companies, such as India, the Netherlands and Australia. All wholly-owned operations transfer to Carat.

Adbrands Daily Update 21st Jan 2019: The New Year kicked off yet another review from a longstanding Wavemaker client. Oil company Chevronlaunched a review of global media, which has been held by Wavemaker and its predecessor company MEC since 2002. Annual billings are estimated at between $65m and $100m. Chevron's global brands include Texaco, Caltex and Havoline lubricants and other motor products. However branded service stations outside North America are mostly operated by independent licensees.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Apr 2018: German mail order retailer Otto Group has ended its relationship with WPP's hard-pressed media agency Wavemaker after just a few weeks. Wavemaker was only officially appointed by Otto in February, although the two companies had been working together since late last year. An Otto Group representative told German trade press, "We can confirm that we have decided together not to continue the business relationship." No further reasons were given. A new media agency is being sought. There was some consolation for Wavemaker with the capture of media and content development in China for the Michael Kors luxury brand.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Mar 2018: Another week, another loss for struggling Wavemaker. Pharma group Amgen is to transfer its $350m US media account to Omnicom's Hearts & Science agency. The business was previously split between Wavemaker's predecessor MEC and Omnicom's specialist healthcare media unit SSCG, which will retain its share of B2B duties. Amgen's drugs include Enbrel, Neulasta and Neupogen.

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Mar 2018: Campbell Soup Company consolidated virtually its entire global marketing account with Publicis Groupe this week. Publicis will take over creative, media, digital and consumer promotion duties for soups, sauces and beverages in North America, and all Campbell Arnott's operations in Australasia and South East Asia. Only Pepperidge Farm and Campbell Fresh in the US are excluded from the creative and digital brief, as are market regions China and Latin America. The appointment marks yet another major loss for WPP's Wavemaker media network - predecessor agency MEC had been the incumbent media shop - and also for BBDO, which had handled most creative. BBDO and Wavemaker are having a terrible year so far. There was some consolation for Wavemaker following the loss of a string of significant account losses with the capture of Danone's business in North America from Carat and Publicis-owned Spark Foundry.

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Background

Free to all users | see full profilefor current activities: The Media Edge was originally formed in 1994 as a standalone unit of NW Ayer, led by Beth Gordon, to manage AT&T's $330m buying business. The agency operated as a media independent although ownership remained with what was then Ayer's parent company, Adcom. In 1996, Ayer was acquired by MacManus Group, and The Media Edge was put up for sale. In the resulting bidding war, Young & Rubicam came up tops, paying a modest $3.5m for the agency. A year later, The Media Edge began to absorb Y&R's existing North American media operations. In 1998, when Y&R went public, the format was rolled out worldwide across 25 other countries, in most cases by rebranding existing Y&R media departments. 

In some European markets, Y&R was already a shareholder in local offices of Mediapolis, the fledgling media network of Euro RSCG. That relationship was gradually dismantled following the merger of Mediapolis with Media Planning, and the two partners split the various local outposts between them. The Mediapolis offices in Italy, Czech Republic and Hungary became The Media Edge, while Media Planning took over the UK, France and Polish operations. In 1999, all US and international operations were amalgamated as a single operating division, under Beth Gordon's command. 

Meanwhile, Young & Rubicam was also involved in tentative merger negotiations with CIA, then an independent media network owned by Chris Ingram's Tempus group. No deal took place, although the two companies joined forces in Germany, with Tempus acquiring a large minority stake in Media Edge's local office there. A year later in 2000, Y&R itself became an acquisition target, snapped up by WPP. A liaison with CIA came back on the agenda in 2001 as a result of WPP's interruption of the agreed merger of Tempus and Media Planning Group. WPP made it clear at the outset of its hostile bid for Tempus that its intention was to combine the two businesses. Despite a temporary change of heart by Martin Sorrell following the September 11th attacks, the takeover was successful and two companies were merged towards the end of 2001. This caused a few client conflicts, not least in Germany where The Media Edge represented the toothpaste brands of Colgate-Palmolive, while CIA handled rival manufacturer Henkel. The situation was resolved when the group agreed to maintain two separate offices to handle each account.

The newly formed MediaEdge:CIA began 2002 with another acquisition, of small UK media shop Purely Media, based in Manchester, and later acquired leading Italian independent Media Club. It also strengthened its operations in Spain by acquiring a 49% shareholding in local agency Focus Media in 2004. In MEC sealed a deal to acquire a 49% shareholding in Fiat Media Centre, the inhouse planning and buying unit of Fiat Group. That deal was completed in 2006, at which point Fiat Media Centre was rebranded as MC2 Mediacommunication. See full profile for current activities


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