United Airlines has consolidated its worldwide creative duties, worth over $100 million per year, at the Minneapolis unit of Fallon Worldwide, ousting previous roster agency Young & Rubicam in New York.

The two shops have shared global duties since 1996, Fallon handling the US activities (about 65% of the total) and Y&R the non-US (35%). However, United decided to pit the two against each other in a 45-day creative and strategic struggle.

Cost-cutting and a desire to move quickly in an increasingly competitive industry were United’s main motives for the consolidation. On the choice of Fallon, United’s VP–worldwide communications John D Kiker explained that the agency “has a great reputation for strategic and creative thought, and that's what we're looking for.”

A philosophical Y&R senior executive Mary Ellen Kenny seemed to understand: “We're disappointed to have gotten this news, but it is understandable given their business situation; we're business people, too.” United, she added, “had to look at agency consolidation as a way to save money and achieve further efficiencies.”

However, the consolidation of the United account represents the latest in a string of big losses for Y&R in recent months, including Ford, KFC, Ericsson and the US army.

At the same time, Zenith Media, part owned by Fallon’s parent Publicis, picks up consolidated media duties, thereby ousting Y&R sibling Media Edge (which shared the planning duties with Zenith and was sole incumbent on the buying account).

News source: New York Times