Who Came Out on Top in the Disney Media Review?

How Omnicom and Publicis split the victory

Logos of Disney, Omnicom Group, and Publicis Groupe
The precise breakdown of the account was not entirely clear. Disney, Omnicom, Publicis
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Disney’s global media review, one of the most closely watched pitches of the year which was first announced in May and conducted by MediaLink, concluded in October with Disney sending the majority of its account to Omnicom and Publicis Groupe.

While it was clear that the majority of media buying and planning responsibilities would now reside with respective holding company dedicated units OMG23 and Publicis Imagine, the precise nature of the review process and its outcome were a bit harder to ascertain. There was even some uncertainty in terms of the breakdown of the account. Depending on where you were seeing the news, you might have noticed either holding company being heralded as the big winner.

While few who took part in the review were willing to be quoted by name, Adweek spoke with sources with direct knowledge of the process and its results to gain a better understanding of how the account will be handled. Here’s what we learned:

The breakdown

So, who actually came out on top?

Well that still depends on how you look at it.

Publicis Groupe may have won a wide plurality of regions globally, but since the majority of the account spending is in the U.S., Omnicom still has the larger portion of the business by spending.

Omnicom’s retained a significant portion of its business, while Publicis Groupe held on to ESPN and picked up all new pieces of business, including Disney+, the entertainment giant’s impending streaming service, and the Disney Parks account formerly held by Dentsu’s Carat, which participated in the review. Omnicom did pick up media networks aside from ESPN, most of which were formerly handled by independent media agency Horizon, which also participated in the review. MDC Partners’ Assembly formerly handled FX and other Fox property networks and did not participate in the review.

At the same time, Publicis Groupe lost the 20th Century Fox media business it had handled for around a decade, with the business moving to Omnicom prior to the review. WPP withdrew from the review in most regions, citing a conflict with Comcast, but retained media buying and planning duties in India.

Sources with knowledge of the review confirmed the following rough breakdown of the account by client spending for each business: OMG23 is handling approximately 50% of the business, including Disney’s studio properties in the U.S. and Canada as well as media channels, excluding ESPN. Publicis Imagine is handling around 46% of the business, including parks and resorts, the Disney+ streaming account and ESPN in North America as well as working across all brands and markets globally, with the exception of India. WPP’s Mindshare is handling around 4% of the business, retaining media buying and planning duties for Disney in India.

According to data consultancy COMvergence’s revised estimates, Disney spends nearly $1.7 billion globally. Of that, COMvergence estimated that OMG23 is handling $800 million, including $100 million in incremental new billings, and Publicis Imagine is handling $700 million, of which $550 million is incremental new billings.

COMvergence estimated that Disney spends around $25 million on marketing in India, where WPP’s Mindshare retained the business. Disney’s actual spending in the year to come is expected to exceed $2 billion, according to sources with knowledge of the account. COMvergence’s total does not include Disney+ but does include Hulu, which was not part of the review and is being handled by UM. 

In-house and programmatic

Further complicating matters is the fact that Disney has an in-house team for programmatic buying on several of its properties, including Disney+ and parks and resorts. One source said that around half of the media buying for these portions of the account is handled programmatically through Disney’s in-house offering. Other sources stressed that Publicis Imagine will still play a role in handling those portions of the account, however.

One source disputed the idea that the client handling this portion in-house meant that Publicis Imagine would play only a minimal role and explained that the agency would be consulting on programmatic efforts, providing both talent and expertise to optimize performance. The precise nature of the consulting relationship and how it may evolve over time remains in question.

What led to the decision 

Sources with knowledge of the review claimed that Disney+ and parks and resorts were the most data-driven portions of the account, both of which Publicis Groupe won globally.

One source said the decision to select Publicis Imagine came down to data and efficiency in large part.

 It’s no surprise that a global client the size of Disney would press the importance of organizational and pricing efficiency in a review, although sources differed on whether the pricing efficiency with which Publicis Groupe offered Epsilon was the primary factor. One source speculated that if the client had solely been looking for a strong agency data offering, Disney might have instead chosen Dentsu Aegis Network because of its more mature data platform. The same source suggested that Publicis Groupe might have played up Epsilon’s importance in the review as a PR move aimed at getting attention from other prospective clients.

Another source said Publicis Groupe was simply able to make the better argument as the right fit for the client, partially on the strength of its Epsilon offering as an efficient and well integrated solution as part of the global network. Sources were in agreement, however, that Publicis Groupe’s organizational strength in Europe also played a significant role.

The broad takeaway seems to be that some combination of a compelling data story, efficiency and global reach ultimately worked to Publicis Groupe’s advantage.

Sources characterized the selection Omnicom as a continuation of a relationship with a trusted long-term partner at a time when Disney’s studios business has seen a great deal of recent success.

The decision to launch the review came at a pivotal moment for Disney following the integration of 20th Century Fox and as it prepares to launch Disney+. The megabrand seems to have chosen to move ahead with one familiar partner and one promising to deliver global efficiency at scale while touting the industry’s latest high-profile data acquisition.

@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.