L'Oreal awards $870 million US media account to WPP's MEC

After years of making inroads with French beauty company around the world, WPP wins big prize in the US

L’Oréal has awarded its $870 million US media planning and buying account to WPP’s MEC following a review.

Interpublic’s UM was the incumbent on the TV- and print-buying business. Publicis’ DigitasLBI had been handling digital media buying since 2013. The French company’s creative account remains with McCann Erickson.

The win represents the culmination of a long road for WPP, which had been making small gains with the French beauty company around the world. In recent years, WPP has won L’Oréal media business in the UK, Canada, China, Southeast Asia, Germany and Latin America.

L’Oréal, the world’s largest beauty company, spent $870 million on media in 2014, down from $930 million in 2013, according to Kantar Media. The French company counts Maybelline, Redken and Lancôme among its more popular brands.

"MEC brings a shared vision for the future of our ever-changing business, strong digital expertise and leadership with truly integrated teams built for us, and the tools and technology to develop Omnimedia solutions," said Nadine Karp McHugh, SVP of Omnimedia, Strategic Investments and Creative Solutions at L’Oréal USA, in a statement. "Combined with the buying power of GroupM, we believe that we’ve found the perfect partner to help us co-create the future of beauty along with our media partners."

The review, launched in April, came down to MEC and Universal McCann. Publicis’ DigitasLBI, which had been handling digital media buying since 2013, defended, but was eliminated before the final rounds, sources say. ZenithOptimedia, whose Moxie brand handled digital buying for the brand until 2013, was said to be in early rounds of the pitch as well.

To some, WPP seemed to hold a distinct advantage going into the pitch. The review was announced just months after McHugh joined L’Oréal from Colgate-Palmolive. Before taking the position, McHugh had spent the bulk of her career at WPP agencies. She spent 11 years at Mindshare, where she helped lead the Unilever account, and four years as group planning director at Ogilvy & Mather.

"We are delighted by the appointment and the opportunity to expand upon our already strong relationship with L’Oréal, a leader with a deep heritage of innovation in beauty for all," said Marla Kaplowitz, CEO, MEC North America, in a statement. "It was apparent from the onset that our two companies share many of the same values and ambitions for growth. Our agency’s data and insights-led planning approach to media will ensure each brand’s vision is fully realized as we partner to further define the future of marketing."

L'Oréal’s was the first of a litany of media reviews launched by major brands this year. Brands reviewing media either in the US or globally included Coca-Cola, 21st Century Fox, Volkswagen and Sony. P&G, the world’s largest advertiser, concluded a North American media review earlier this week, moving the bulk of its media buying and planning in the region to Omnicom, which will establish a new media agency to oversee the account.

"This review is about finding passionate, innovative and collaborative agency partners most attuned to L'Oréal's culture and consumers and then working together to re-define the future of marketing," Karp McHugh said in a statement at the time the review was launched.

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