Why AmEx Put Its Media Biz in Play

American Express’ decision last week to review its $375 million media business, anchored for 40 years at MindShare and its predecessor, the media department of Ogilvy & Mather, was sparked by client frustration with the incumbent’s search for a new worldwide leader on its business, sources said.

“They lost the guy leading the business for them and haven’t replaced him,” said one source. Another agency exec described the review as an “over-reaction” to frustration over the search for a global leader.

The idea that WPP Group’s MindShare and American Express would part ways was “unthinkable” before last week, said one agency executive, adding that “there was no indication … that [Amex] would put the account into review.”

In May, MindShare named Steve Lanzano, North American CEO at sister network Mediaedge:cia, to lead the account. But by September he had left to head up U.S. operations for Havas’ MPG.

A client rep said ensuring “the best media resources available” prompted the review, expected to be decided in the first quarter.

Contending in the contest are MindShare, Aegis Group’s Carat and Interpublic Group’s Initiative Media, sources said. None of the shops was available for comment. Outside the U.S., media is handled by Carat in the U.K., Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media in Italy and Dentsu in Asia.