MEC chief predicts 'whirlwind' year in 2009

LONDON - Tom George, chief executive of WPP's aggressively expanding Mediaedge:cia, forecasts "a very active" pitch scene in 2009, driven by increasing demand for ROI in the economic downturn.

George: chief executive of Mediaedge:cia
George: chief executive of Mediaedge:cia

Speaking to Mediaweek.co.uk, the leader of this year's fastest growing agency in terms of net billings has advised the industry another "whirlwind" year could be on its way.

"What the economic situation seems to have done is accelerated some of the tougher decisions that have needed to be made," he said. "We're likely to see a continuation of a very active pitch scene as advertisers seek to drive further value in tough times."

According to Cormac Loughran, business development director at MEC, the agency was invited to pitch for 40 projects in 2008, of which 24 were actively pursued. This compares to some 30 briefs received in 2007.  

He added: "We expect this number to increase by 20 to 25% next year, and although there may not be another Orange up for grabs, you can expect to see at least one large multimillion-pound financial client coming to market."

Under George's leadership, the WPP agency has added more than £125m in new billings in 2008, including prising the £76m Orange account away from Initiative, and winning four of the five major pieces of business run by the COI.

However, he believes such growth is far from representative of the media marketplace and that once you scratch below the surface of advertising expenditure figures over the past few years, "the growth in online spend masks a media market that hasn't exactly been buoyant for quite some time".

Looking ahead, George urged everyone operating within the advertising business to remind clients that it pays to advertise in a recession and that the current cost of media represents great value.

He also said it is important for agencies to continue to experiment in emerging digital opportunities.

"The successful agencies will be those that can not only deliver value, but also demonstrate effectiveness and a real business return on advertising investment," he said.

"The optimist in me thinks there will be some signs of recovery in 2009 and that the current recession could end as quickly as it started."

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