GroupM Dials in Clout With Radio Units Merger

WPP’s GroupM just assembled a lot of clout in the $1 billion network radio business. By consolidating the smaller network radio buying units of Mediacom, Mindshare and Mediaedge:cia into a single unit, the WPP media shop created the largest network radio buying unit in North America with billings north of $200 million.

Kim Vasey, senior partner and director of radio for Mediaedge:cia, will head the new unit, called simply GroupM Network Radio.

The network radio reorganization is just the latest in a string of moves by GroupM chief investment officer Rino Scanzoni to get the biggest bang for clients’ bucks by leveraging scale. Exactly a year ago, Scanzoni revamped the local broadcast operations at the three shops, followed by print last summer.

GroupM Network Radio combines three relatively small network radio units of two to four people, into a larger unit of between eight and 10 people. The reorg was not without its fallout. Matthew Warnecke, partner group director of network radio for Mediacom, is out.

“The three network radio units were relatively small and that limited the amount of resources there,” said Scanzoni. “It’s hard to get any kind of identity with such a small group. This adds to a higher level of professionalism. Having one radio network unit makes us more effective in the marketplace in terms of negotiations and driving value.”

In addition to on-air, GroupM Network Radio will also be responsible for buying online radio, a small but growing segment, as well as mobile and other digital radio platforms. Teams will be set up within GMNR to handle accounts such as Campbell’s Soup, Volkswagen, Macy’s, Diageo and Subway.

Although network radio is only a $1 billion business, national advertisers, particularly retailers, have found network radio increasingly attractive compared to spot. As a result, the segment has fared better than other media during the recession and is poised to grow in 2010.

Technology has also played a big part in the segment’s growth, allowing national advertisers the ability to copy-split and localize national messages and turnaround campaigns in less than a week.

“This year’s upfront has been more robust than expected,” said David Landau, co-president and CEO of Dial Global. “Retail has been up significantly, as has auto. First quarter is pacing up double digits.”

Despite network radio’s benefits, other media often overshadow the medium. Scanzoni is looking to GMNR to be a thought leader in the network radio business.

“This unit allows us to educate all our clients about the opportunities,” Scanzoni said. “We can also push forward certain initiatives in ratings and measurement because we’re speaking with one voice. It will raise investment in the business.”