TMD Carat’s move up the agency rankings is not only the highest of any media independent but of any single agency.
TMD, as the name suggests, is part of Europe’s largest media buying network, Carat. Its only link with a creative agency network was severed earlier this year when Omnicom sold its nine per cent stake in parent Carat Aegis.
It operated in the UK as straightforward TMD (The Media Department) from the Seventies until Carat bought the company in 1991. It has a pan-European media buying joint venture with TBWA called Eurospace that is managed by TMD staff. TMD currently has billings of about 390m but the agency predicts the figure will rise to 425m next year. Its clients include Abbey National and Asda.
The agency’s recent success, reflected in the survey, is attributed internally to a decision made two years ago by Carat UK chairman Ray Kelly and TMD managing director Mark Craze to move away from its positioning as a pure buying agency. “We were always known as bastards to deal with, but we bought cheap,” says one senior manager.
As part of the new strategy, TMD surprised the industry and poached Simon King, planning director at Lowe Howard-Spink, to fill the role at TMD. He was briefed to make the whole of TMD focus on planning as a discipline.
The agency has had its fair share of positive headlines this year, with a steady stream of new business wins including Philips’ 10m pan-European business and Channel 5.
At the other end of the scale is the CIA Group, which previously held the title as the highest ranked media agency. The shine has been taken off new business wins like Shell and Henkel by press coverage of its increasingly bitter TV buying dispute with ITV sales houses Laser and TSMS.
The survey was conducted just after the dispute broke but it is impossible to say how much of an effect it has had on the perceptions of marketing directors. A collapse from 11th to 20th place in the rankings suggests that it is, at the very least, a factor.
For the other media agencies in the top 25, Zenith’s move from 17th to 15th, like its year, was unremarkable. But the 12m acquisition of Pattison Horswell Durden, now New PHD, by AMV (MW May 31) should mean that next year it not only maintains its top 25 reputation position but improves on it.