ANALYSIS: 5 things You need to know about Starcom losing Telefonica’s Latam business to Havas

As we published last week Starcom Media Vest lost its Telefonica media planning and buying business to Havas Media after it won the pitch in July. Many observers of the agency and client world are shaking their heads. Five things you need to know about why Starcom lost the Telefonica business (approximately US$ 250 million a year) and its implications for the media buying and planning business of major agencies.

1. How did it happen?

TelefonicaThe decision to move Telefonica's LatAm media business from Starcom (Publicis Groupe) to Havas Media Group (as well as Telefonica's European Media business and O2 business from Publicis' Zenith Optimedia to Havas) is part of an overarching business decision made by Telefonica chairman César Alierta following the purchase of Vivendi's Brazilian broadband unit GVT for US$ 9 billion in September. Last, but definitely not least, Vivendi chairman and majority shareholder Vincent Bollore also owns a 36% stake in Havas and his son Yanique Bollore is CEO of Havas. The Telefonica Latam business was a bargaining chip in a much larger business deal involving the US$ 9 billion GVT broadband business.

The Telefonica Latam business was a bargaining chip in a much larger business deal involving the US$ 9 billion GVT broadband business.

It can be argued that while the transaction was not in accordance with open procurement rules by which Telefonica had awarded the media buying and planning business to Havas in July, the deal may benefit Telefonica stakeholders because it likely helped Telefonica to get a lower purchase price for Vivendi's Brazilian GVT unit..

2. Was Havas part of the July pitch for Telefonica business?

Reliable sources tell Portada that Havas participated in the pitch won by Starcom Media Vest, as announced in  July,  and came in fourth position.

3. Why are media planning and buying businesses prone to be bargaining chips when there are even larger deals at stake?

Abstract metal connection concept earth  backgroundFor two reasons. First,  media buying and planning revenues for agencies can be very sizable chunks of business, particularly when they involve major advertisers who have hundreds of millions of media expenditures a year. A creative assignment will never amount to that type of revenue. Therefore media assignments are valuable chunks of business that can be traded and be part of even larger dealings as the Telefonica-Vivendi deal shows. Second, and also very importantly, media buying and planning assignments are relatively easy to move between agencies.Some observers argue that the media buying and planning business is a commodity as opposed to the creative business where a larger degree of know-how and insights are needed.

Some observers argue that the media buying and planning business is a commodity.

4. Why is Telefonica a particularly difficult case?

Companies that are heavily regulated like telcos or utilities or where the government has a stake, like Telefonica, are more prone to politica decision-making and interference. The same way Havas was favored now in Telefonica's decision, its predecessor Media Planning Group (MPG) lost the Telefonica business in 2006 when Spain's centre-right government of president  Jose Maria Aznar lost the general election against the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

5. Is Starcom going to diminish headcount as a result of losing Telefonica?

In the last few weeks, Starcom not only got the bad news of the loss of the Telefonica business, but it also lost the P&G Digital Latin America business to Omnicom Media Group. However, Portada has heard that, at least for now,  no headcount reductions in Starcom Latin America are being planned.


Editorial Staff

Portada Staff

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