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Unilever shifts Australian media from Mindshare to PHD as APAC review continues

UnileverThe battle to control one of the largest media accounts in Asia Pacific, FMCG giant Unilever, has been won in Australia by Omnicom’s PHD, which has taken the media business from GroupM rival Mindshare.

A pitch for Unilever in Australia and New Zealand came after a global review announced by the Anglo-Dutch giant in January.

Other markets in APAC are expected to be settled in the coming weeks – although no formal pitches have been called.

PHD retained New Zealand and won Australia, and now handles all Unilever media business in Greater China, digital in India and Pakistan and the global planning business based out of Singapore.

Mindshare has held the Unilever account in Australia since 2011, and controls the business – which includes brands such as Vaseline, Knorr, Dove and Wall’s – in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Japan, Korea and Singapore, the company’s regional headquarters.

The account move in Australia was the biggest media move of the year so far, and a blow to GroupM, which is currently undergoing significant management changes following the departure of CEO John Steedman last month.

For PHD, the win will mean a considerable staffing up in its Sydney office which has come close in several major pitches in recent years, and has recently won Bayer, SAP, Priceline and Cancer Council. The agency’s biggest client is ANZ Bank.

Unilever said in a statement: “Unilever Australia has completed the review of its media planning and buying agency services, as part of the Company’s global policy to periodically evaluate media arrangements. The review included the current incumbent Mindshare along with PHD and Initiative Media. Unilever is pleased to announce PHD has been appointed as the media agency for Unilever Australia and New Zealand.”

While the move is a blow for Mindshare there was speculation as to whether the agency would pitch for the business in Australia this time around.

The agency has also been boosted in recent months by taking clients large IAG and Foxtel from sister agency Mediacom following a scandal around misreporting of TV audience figures after campaigns.

GroupM has confirmed there will be no redundancies as a result of the account loss.

The announcement comes amid a number of global media reviews in the market, including Johnson & Johnson, 21st Century Fox and Sony. WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell recently commented: “We can’t remember anything like this.”

He told Campaign magazine: “I think clients are insecure. It’s symbolic of a number things. It’s symbolic of the old Holy Grail [and marketers asking], ‘am I spending the right amount, should it be more or less, the same?’ and ‘where should I spend it? The choices are much more complex now.”

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