The Biggest Account Shifts of 2018

Holding companies led the pack with the most wins

As clients increasingly seek to consolidate work with one network, holding companies gain the advantage. Getty
Headshot of Lindsay Rittenhouse

Even as holding companies continue toward an uncertain future, it was the “big six” over the somewhat seemingly more stable independent agencies (in the U.S., anyway) that prevailed in some of the most significant account reviews of 2018.

“A number of large global creative and media businesses that left independent operating agencies were won by holding company agencies,” Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester, said. “It’s a signal of the type of integration clients are asking for: a combination of data, tech, media and creative.”

On accounts where clients sought to consolidate services, the holding company model seemed to have held an advantage over smaller, more dedicated agencies, as different networks with various skills could be paired to form a tailor-made supergroup for one client.

Here are some of the more significant wins for the holding companies:


In November, Omnicom prevailed in the highly contested review for the Army’s $4 billion marketing contract after the U.S. government denied a bid protest filed by incumbent McCann Worldgroup upon its elimination from the review. The elimination came after a personal relationship was discovered between a top executive at the Army Marketing and Research Group and a leader of the account at McCann, while an internal audit found millions of dollars in ineffective spending.

Ford reworked its long-term relationship with WPP in October, sending its $3 billion (according to R3) global creative account to BBDO. Omnicom-owned digital experience agency Organic and TLGG Consulting were also awarded certain parts of the business.

Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, awarded its $950 million (estimated by COMvergence) global media planning and buying business to Omnicom in October. The shift resulted in Publicis losing business in Europe and the APAC region and WPP losing work for South Asia and the Middle East.

In March, GSD&M retained the U.S. Air Force account, with a $747 million contract set to expire in September 2027.

HSBC sent its $400 million global media business to PHD in May, ending its relationship with WPP.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners picked up BMW’s U.S. creative business in March following a review. The move ended the company’s 12-year AOR relationship with MDC Partners’ KBS. According to Kantar Media, BMW spends about $275 million in the U.S. on measured media annually.

GSD&M won the $227 million Pizza Hut creative account in June from independent creative shop Droga5, which picked the business up in May of 2016 and was the brand’s fifth agency of record in six years at the time.

Boston Beer Co., whose properties include iconic craft beer brand Samuel Adams as well as Angry Orchard and Twisted Tea, named Hearts & Science its media AOR in June. Publicis-owned Zenith was the incumbent. Kantar estimated Boston Beer spent $52 million on paid media in the U.S. last year.

Additionally, Jack Link’s sent its lead creative responsibilities to GSD&M in April, ending a 13-year creative AOR relationship with Carmichael Lynch. The company awarded its media account to Cincinnati-based independent agency Empower in March. Jack Link’s spent $11 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar.

Below is the 2017 “White Hats Wanted” campaign from the U.S. Army’s incumbent agency, McCann, that garnered four Effies:


In November, WPP won the North Amercian part of Volkswagen’s $1.7 billion global business following a review. (Omnicom retained its Volkswagen business in South America and Europe, where adam&eveDDB is its lead agency, and Samsung’s Cheil Worldwide will remain lead agency in China.)

CPG conglomerate Mars consolidated its roughly $1.4 billion global media business with WPP in August. The new arrangement that will see Mediacom, a part of the GroupM network, retain its AOR title goes into effect on Jan. 1. Before the review, Mars worked with WPP and several other agency networks, including Publicis Groupe’s Starcom and OMD.

In August, Mondelez, which spends about $1 billion on paid media globally (according to R3), sent a large portion of its AMEA and MEU regional work to GroupM’s Wavemaker and Mindshare.

In January, Bose awarded its $150 million global account to a dedicated WPP team comprised of Grey, Wunderman (which will become Wunderman Thompson through its merger with JWT in 2019), Hogarth Worldwide and MediaCom.

On Tuesday, Newell Brands consolidated its global business with WPP. The holding company will service the consumer brand through dedicated unit Team Newell comprised of Wunderman Thompson, VMLY&R, Mindshare, Geometry and Eicoff. According to R3, Newell spends about $80 million on paid media globally.

On Monday, Carnival Cruise Line sent CRM duties to Wunderman. R3 estimated that Carnival spends about $20 million in CRM globally.

Office Depot sent its creative and media business to Y&R (before it merged with VML) and Mediacom in February following a review. Omnicom’s Zimmerman was the incumbent.

Grey New York picked up the creative accounts of McCormick & Co., the Baltimore-based maker of spices, seasoning mixes, condiments and other flavor-based products, and Frank’s RedHot, the classic sauce known primarily for its key role in the first batch of Buffalo wings, in October.

Y&R created the below 2010 spot for Office Depot in which it depicted how saving money on office supplies saved a barbershop.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.