T-Mobile Partners With WPP’s Essence and Takes Some Media Planning and Buying Duties In-House

Brand's media AOR Blue 449 of Publicis Groupe will be affected

T-Mobile is back in the Big Game.
T-Mobile

T-Mobile said in an internal email acquired by Adweek today that it is taking “some key responsibilities” related to its media strategy, search and analytics in-house and has formed a new partnership with WPP’s Essence to help.

In the email to staff, Nick Drake, the telecom giant’s executive vice president of marketing and experiences, said the decision will not affect T-Mobile’s longtime creative agency of record, Publicis Seattle. It will, however, strip its media agency of record, Blue 449, of certain duties.

In the email, Drake noted Blue 449, the media network launched by Publicis Groupe in 2015, would remain T-Mobile’s media AOR, supporting both its main brand and Metro PCS.

“However, we are now ready to bring some key responsibilities in-house so that we can make decisions and optimize them at the speed of our business,” Drake said. “We’re starting by bringing strategy, search and media analytics in-house.”

A source familiar with the situation said Blue 449 would continue handling buying and planning duties across T-Mobile’s traditional channels but that digital responsibilities would be taken in-house.

Drake added in his email that T-Mobile has employed specialist media shop Essence to help with the transition. Essence, which is a part of WPP’s GroupM network, focuses on digital media planning and buying, and assists clients in building their own in-house operations and capabilities.

A Publicis spokesperson said in a statement to Adweek, “We are proud of the work we’ve done for T-Mobile at Blue 449 and look forward to continuing our partnership with them across all traditional channels.”

Essence North American CEO Steve Williams Essence added in a statement, “We’re excited to be working with T-Mobile to create an emergent form of partnership in our industry—one that puts agency-client collaboration and agility at the heart of the model. In the midst of so much change driven by telecommunications, we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a company like T-Mobile.”

T-Mobile declined to comment.

“With these new capabilities, we expect to improve self-service functions, increase decisioning speed and strengthen our media investments while tying them back to our priority business outcomes more effectively and efficiently than ever before,” Drake said in his email.

The executive added that T-Mobile would be beefing up its in-house team with new hires.

“One thing is clear: The opportunity in front of us is so much bigger than the one we’ve already achieved over the last five years!” Drake wrote. “It’s an exciting time for our company, our brand and our customers.”

Brands like notoriously big ad spenders Procter & Gamble and Unilever have increasingly been taking their media duties in-house over the past few years. The trend gained momentum following the ANA’s 2016 media transparency report and after P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard made a 2017 call to avoid wasting time and money on “a crappy media supply chain.” Unilever itself claimed recently to have saved 30 percent on agency fees since taking more of its advertising efforts in-house.


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