Media Planning: Still No National Broadcast Director

Even in the most dis mal job market in a decade, Havas’ Media Planning continues to have trouble attracting a media buyer to fill its long-vacant evp/national broadcast director spot.

The lack of a CEO and the loss of important cli ents have soured candidates on the position, sources said. The media shop handles $2.6 billion in U.S. billings from cli ents rep resented by Me dia Planning and Havas’ Euro RSCG, whose clients include Intel and Evian.

The job has been open since March 2001, when Ray Dundas left the agency to handle Universal’s media buying at OMD. According to sources, Media Planning initially wanted a CEO with a financial background, but has since changed its focus to someone with client-side marketing experience.

Media Planning officials did not return calls.

The agency’s trouble stems largely from uncertainty following the No vem ber ouster of Steve Farella, who collided with officials at holding com pany Media Planning Group over the shop’s future direction.

This week, Havas is preparing to offer the national broadcast director position to its eighth candidate in six months, sources said.

The loss of high-profile clients in the past three months and a lack of new business have also hurt the shop’s reputation, sources said. It has recently lost Novartis, Pharmacia, Isuzu and a piece of MCI WorldCom, together worth a total of $450 million in billings.

“Media Planning can certainly survive as a middle-market entity, but [Havas’ chief executive] Alain de Pouzilhac has not backed away from his promise to the financial commu nity to make it a major player,” said one media executive.

The easiest way for Media Planning to enter the “majors” is to merge with another shop, sources said. Havas tried to buy U.K.-based Tempus Group, but backed off when WPP Group, Tempus’ eventual purchaser, made a bid.

Havas is said to be looking very closely at another merger attempt, possibly with Grey Global Group. That holding company, whose unbundled media network, MediaCom, is considered a solid player, is frequently mentioned as an acquisition target.