UK government hands £140m media account to Omnicom calling time on Dentsu Aegis

The Omnicom shop will be tasked with helping the government navigate the challenges posed by ad misplacement and data protection

The UK government has appointed Manning Gottlieb OMD to handle its £140m media account, The Drum has learned, ending its relationship with Dentsu Aegis Network agency Carat following a statutory review.

Now, the Omnicom-owned agency will be tasked with helping the government navigate the challenges posed by ad misplacement and data protection as well as ensuring there's value in media placements purchased with taxpayer's cash.

The Drum understands agencies were told of the result on Friday (11 May).

When the review launched late last year, Westminster's executive director of the Government Communications Service (GCS), Alex Aiken, said he wanted the government to "play a leading role in tackling the biggest challenges facing modern advertisers" and help restore trust in the industry.

The Drum has reached out to both Omnicom and Dentsu Aegis for comment. At the time of writing they were unable to respond.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office said it was currently in a "legal standstill" period, as such it could not be specific.

"We intend to issue a confirmation of the agency that will be awarded our new media buying contract on Tuesday 22 May," it added.

The Marketing Group’s blockchain-based agency Truth was involved in the open pitch process along with Publicis Group and others, including Dentsu.

An open and transparent approach

With Manning Gottlieb's win coming amid the backdrop Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal and ongoing industry concerns around brand safety, data privacy and ad fraud, the agency will have its work cut out.

Aitken was particularly firm on the need to put transparency front and centre of the review process when the government opened the pitch last year and during subsequent appearances on the agency circuit.

He, also said would be working to the media buying framework recently set out by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba).

In a separate draft strategy document the government indicated that its selection would be chiefly driven by performance, quality, talent and transparency. In the score based system, pricing was given just 10% of the weighting.

It now looks like these tenets will continue to be at the heart of the four-year relationship, as Omnicom is tasked with meeting the requirements of 89 different government customers.

Aiken said back in February that the UK government had not resumed spend with YouTube since pulling its ads from the platform last year, when publicly-funded commercials were served adjacent to pornographic and extremist content.

At the time, he revealed he'd been told by agencies that it would reduce the government's marketing impact and incur greater cost, but said it hadn't affected either.

"What happened was the opposite in that the majority of campaigns we improved results by concentrating on fewer sites and publications and lowering our cost per acquisition significantly improved our performance," he noted.

As per the GCS' own draft media buying framework, it's understood Omnicom will start straight away. However, any slots it books will be done so in advance, as the cooling off period allows for Dentsu to continue to book media up until early November.

Last week, Microsoft chose to retain Dentsu Aegis to handle its global media account following review.

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