School Reports 2016: ZenithOptimedia


ZenithOptimedia is a supertanker of a media agency that is hard to change course. That explains in part why its parent, Publicis Groupe, split the agency group in two in March 2016 – of which more later.

2015 was a year of transition as Grant Millar’s spell as the chief executive lasted barely 12 months before he handed the role on to the agency stalwart Mark Howley in October.

Many of ZenithOptimedia’s biggest accounts are multinationals, including its top three spenders, RB, Mars and Toyota. Its biggest win of the year, the US beauty company Coty’s £24 million business, came as another global brief.

Between them, Millar and Howley had a strong new-business record, picking up 15 bits of work, including Singapore Airlines and Net-A-Porter.

Winning Giffgaff, the O2 spin-off that was previously with Havas’ Forward Media, was a small consolation after O2 moved its main account to Forward in 2014. A big loss was Bacardi, which moved to OMD as part of a global realignment.

ZenithOptimedia sells itself as "the ROI agency" and says it is the second-largest UK shop for SEO. Notable new business from existing clients included SEO for RB and Aviva.

But now ZenithOptimedia is no more as the group has been disbanded in favour of two standalone agencies, Zenith and Optimedia Blue 449. It’s all part of a masterplan by Publicis Groupe to have a single media buying division, Publicis Media, headed by Steve King. He used to run ZenithOptimedia globally, so the London team should have little to fear from the shake-up.

How the agency rates itself: 7

"We moved all programmatic in-house and continued to invest in new data solutions. This focus saw us win three awards at The Drum/DBM awards and the Data Storytelling Awards. We won notable new accounts including Coty and Harvey Nichols. Our Performics unit won numerous assignments in SEO, growing by 20 per cent, and Newcast picked up the digital creative/production for Lactalis. It was a strong year, progressing in all the right places."

Type of agency Media
Company ownership Publicis Groupe
Nielsen billings 2015 £516m
Nielsen billings 2014 £477m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 224
Accounts won 15 (biggest: Coty)
Accounts lost 1 (Bacardi)
Traditional media 69%
Digital media 31%
Number of staff 444 (+7%)
Women in senior management 36%
BAME staff in senior management n/s
Key personnel Mark Howley, chief executive
Natalie Cummins, group managing director
Jon King, managing director, Performics

Score key: 9 Outstanding  8 Excellent  7 Good  6 Satisfactory  5 Adequate  4 Below average  3 Poor  2 A year to forget  1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

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