It’s Official: Mindshare Keeps Unilever in U.S.

Unilever has confirmed keeping its U.S. media planning and buying assignment with WPP Group’s Mindshare. The shop also retained chores in Western Europe and picked up Canada. The decision came after a multiple-market review that the client initiated last July.

Other contenders in the U.S. review included Omnicom’s PHD and Interpublic’s Initiative. The client spent $640 million on domestic ads in 2008, and $674 million from January through November of last year, according to Nielsen. Those estimates exclude online outlays.

Laura Klauberg, Unilever’s vp, global media, said the adjustments to the agency roster would allow the client “to reach even more consumers in more effective ways.”

“As we increasingly make use of digital and social media, we are confident that we have the best agency partners to help us engage in new ways with the 2 billion consumers whose lives we touch,” she said.

What also changed — in every market, per sources — is that going forward, Unilever will receive more favorable rates from its agencies. “The process was procurement driven,” said one source involved in the process.

Mindshare, which held the bulk of the client’s business prior to the start of the review, will continue to handle the biggest share of work. In terms of dollars spent, the shop now controls between 70-75 percent of the business, down from about 80 percent, per sources.

Dominic Proctor, global CEO at Mindshare, wouldn’t confirm any numbers, but as the incumbent on much of the business acknowledged that “it’s been a tense few months…It’s always a nerve-racking time when you’re put in [review] as the incumbent, because the stats shows that the client tends to move beyond the incumbent. So it’s doubly good news that the work we’ve been doing on the ground paid off.”

Mindshare also retained Western Europe, where the client spends an estimated $1.3 billion. Markets reviewed in the region included the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Scandinavia.

Among the key markets that changed agencies were Mexico, Canada and Greater China (China, Taiwan and Hong Kong).

The $450 million Greater China assignment shifted to PHD in December. Mindshare and Initiative had been the incumbents.

PHD had been the incumbent on the Canadian business.

Mexico, which had been handled by Mindshare, moved to Initiative, which also retained its existing Latin America assignments, including Colombia and Argentina. 

Klauberg also said that the “greater alignment within our key country clusters will contribute to achieving exceptional results for our business in an increasingly complex and fragmented media environment.”

Mindshare also retained India and Thailand, while Omnicom Media Group held on to Poland, and Initiative retained Russia.

Mindshare has put together a nice run over the past six months. It has added almost $800 million in new business from clients such as Abbott Laboratories ($230 million), Boehringer-Ingelheim ($220 million), Zurich Financial ($150 million) and Farmers Insurance ($100 million), among others, after losing a couple of big clients early in 2009. Those key losses were Bristol-Myers Squibb ($400 million) and Wrigley ($250 million).

On a global basis, Unilever spends more than $7 billion a year on advertising and promotions. Worldwide media spending is believed to exceed $2 billion.