The decision means that the incumbent has lost brands such as Brylcreem and Radox in the UK, part of £13.4m worth of billings (according to Nielsen Media Research). The blow follows the agency's success in picking up the £101m L'Oréal Golden account in July.
The review, which is taking place across 15 countries in Europe, is understood to also include the food and beverage section of the Sara Lee account, which could bump the value up to £18.8m in the UK, according to Nielsen. This encompasses brands such as Chat Noir and Douwe Egberts coffee and the bakery line.
Agency sources said the account had an emphasis on procurement and streamlining Sara Lee's business across Europe.
One source from an agency that declined to pitch for the business said that the whole point behind the pitch was to "drive cost efficiencies across the business".
ZenithOptimedia chief executive Antony Young confirmed that the agency was out of the running for the account.
"We have been knocked off the European pitch for Sara Lee," Young said. "While disappointing, it wasn't completely unexpected.
It was a full-blown European pitch that involved 15 countries, and ZenithOptimedia only had the business in the UK.
We've had a good run from these European pitches, this one didn't fall our way."
Sara Lee awarded the Gossard and Dim accounts from its branded apparel range to HavasownedMedia Planning Group in February 2004; the agency already handled the account for Playtex, also owned by Sara Lee.
Media Week understands the clothing side of the business is not affected by this review.
Sara Lee declined to comment.