US advertising account activity falls

05 January 2010

NEW YORK: Fewer advertising accounts were up for review or changed hands in the US last year compared with 2008, but the value of those that did increased on an annual basis.

According to Adweek, the industry title, 154 creative and media briefs worth at least $20 million (€13.9m; £12.4m) were put out for pitch or transferred to new agencies in 2009, down from 165 over the previous 12 months.

In terms of media spending levels, however, these chores were worth 39% more year-on-year, up from $14.8 billion to $20.6bn in all.

Major account activity included a worldwide media review conducted by Unilever, the FMCG giant, which boasts an estimated annual expenditure of some $2bn.

Reckitt Benckiser, the household goods specialist, also reassessed its $1.3bn global media responsibilities, as did Hewlett-Packard, the IT giant, with billings being valued at $1bn.

Nokia, the Finnish telecoms company, and Danone, the owner of brands like Evian and Volvic – which have budgets of $500m each – similarly both re-evaluated their media rosters.

By quarter, 26 accounts either moved or were up for consideration in the three months from January to March, compared with 34 over the April to June quarter, and 19 from July to September.

A more positive trend emerged from September onwards, with 45 accounts meeting these same criteria between the start of month and the end of the year.

Russel Wohlwerth, of Ark Advisors, the agency search consultancy, suggested that many reviews were encouraged by the need to cut costs.
 "People were fixated on the recession," he said. "The business as a whole was slow and then just magically in September things started popping."

He further predicted that the first quarter of 2010 "is going to be strong … This is the end of the decade and I think there's an emotional lift."

Data sourced from AdWeek; additional content by Warc staff