Unilever is tipped to move its &£680m pan-European media buying account into Carat in what would be a huge blow to incumbents Initiative Media and MindShare.
It is understood that global media director Alan Rutherford has recommended to the individual European markets that the business be awarded to Carat, which already works on Unilever’s frozen foods business in the UK.
Although a final decision has yet to be made, Rutherford holds the ultimate responsibility for the account.
The consolidation of the packaged goods giant’s media buying business comes at a time when it is under intense pressure to make the business leaner and more competitive following two successive profit warnings. Unilever is aiming to slash up to &£30m from its media spend budget.
The news will come as a shock to Initiative in particular, which holds the account in 11 of the 14 markets in which the review was conducted, including the UK, and about &£400m of total billings across Europe. Initiative has already survived one review of the UK business in 2002 against MindShare and Carat.
Last week, the company admitted that it has started on the first wave of marketing redundancies under its “One Unilever” strategy, with a ten per cent cut in staff at Unilever Bestfoods (MW last week). Media planning is not included in the review.