Summary List Placement
Advertisers slashed their budgets during the pandemic while suspending the long and expensive process of changing ad agencies.
But 2021 is expected to be an unusually active year for new business with accounts representing billions in ad spending expected to change hands.
Greg Paull, founder of R3 Worldwide, a consulting firm that oversees such reviews, said he expected renewed activity from industries like travel and tourism, which want to restart spending after being hard hit by the pandemic.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, for example, recently restarted its search for an agency after pausing the process nearly a year ago during the pandemic.
Below are 15 top accounts that are up for grabs, based on our own reporting and news accounts elsewhere, in order of estimated value to the winning agencies.
Unless otherwise noted, the companies did not respond to requests for comment.
Coca-Cola is the big prize at $4.2 billion, but most agencies will lose out.
Estimated spend: $4.2 billion
The biggest account with the most ad dollars at stake is Coca-Cola, which plans to slash its budget by consolidating much of its ad business with fewer agencies.
Agencies including Wieden + Kennedy as well as holding companies WPP, Publicis, Dentsu, IPG, and MDC Partners are pitching to defend their business and grab a bigger slice of the pie. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the company plans to pick its new agencies by the end of 2021.
Ad Age, which first reported the news, said Coca-Cola spent $4.2 billion on paid advertising in 2019.
Home Depot is weighing ad giants Publicis and Omnicom.
Account: Home Depot
Estimated spend: $1.1 billion
The Home Depot continues its search for a new creative agency after firing The Richards Group in October after its founder, Stan Richards, made a racist remark that gained widespread media attention.
Reports say Omnicom's BBDO and Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett are among the agencies competing for the business. The retailer also recently named Omnicom's OMD as its new media agency.
The Home Depot spent $1.1 billion on advertising in 2020, according to Ad Age's Datacenter.
A Home Depot spokesperson had no updates on its search.
Unilever is shaking up its US e-commerce business, and it could be a big loss for WPP.
Estimated spend: $900 million
CPG giant Unilever is looking for a new agency to handle its North American retail ad business in late 2020, several sources told Insider. The maker of brands like Dove, Lipton, and Ben & Jerry's will focus on e-commerce advertising, which has taken off during the pandemic.
Unilever is a critical client for advertising giant WPP, which is defending its business against competitors including IPG. An insider said the review came about because Unilever wanted to explore options outside WPP just as the company folded Geometry, the agency responsible for Unilever's US retail business, into its VMLY&R network.
Unilever spent $900 million on marketing in North America in 2019, according to market-research firm Comvergence. A knowledgeable source said the retail part of the business would be worth $30 million in annual revenue to an agency.
It's down to the wire for the US Navy's massive, five-year ad contract.
Account: US Navy
Estimated spend: Five years, $457 million
The US Navy announced in December 2019 that it would review potential agencies when its contract ends in May. The winner will be tasked with helping Navy increase recruits through 2026 through work like events, targeted ad buys, and email marketing.
Federal government clients are some of the most lucrative in the ad industry, and IPG took WPP to court in 2015 after it lost a five-year, $457 million contract. Now, IPG hopes to win back the business — another potential five-year contract — and make up for losing the even larger Army account to Omnicom in 2018.
People with direct knowledge said WPP's VMLY&R and IPG's McCann are the two finalists in the pitch, which is set to wrap up in May. The Navy declined to comment.
Philips wants to send its $300 million advertising and PR business to a single holding company.
Estimated spend: $300 million
Philips started looking for an agency for its $300 million global advertising, PR, and marketing business in January, and holding companies IPG, Dentsu, and WPP are competing for the account.
The company's ad and media buying is being handled by WPP-owned Ogilvy and Wavemaker, but people close to the business said Philips plans to consolidate all work with one holding company to save money. The pitch is expected to conclude in May.
MDC Partners is pulling out all the stops to save its Infiniti account.
Estimated spend: $150 million
Nissan-owned Infiniti is shopping for an agency to handle its global creative advertising.
Infiniti last June started looking for a new creative agency, potentially dealing a major blow to its agency Crispin Porter Bogusky, which has already lost top execs and its second-largest client, Domino's Pizza, in recent months.
MDC Partners-owned Crispin has handled Infiniti's creative business since 2014. Also vying for the business are holding companies Dentsu, Cheil Worldwide, WPP, Omnicom, and Publicis. Infiniti expects to have an update in the next couple of months.
Comvergence estimates that Nissan spends $1.5 billion annually on global marketing across its brands; 10% of that total, or about $150 million, goes to Infiniti.
Cigna is consolidating its ad, media, and PR work.
Estimated spend: $150 million
Cigna aims to cut the number of agencies it uses to one for its global marketing business, meaning a potential loss for its current agencies IPG, Omnicom, and Edelman. The winning agency will control creative and digital advertising, media planning and buying, PR, brand strategy, and sponsorships.
As one of the five largest US-based health insurance providers, Cigna is a crucial client.
Comvergence estimates Cigna spends $150 million on global marketing each year.
Chocolate maker Lindt will be a sweet prize for a holding company.
Account: Lindt & Sprüngli
Estimated spend: $145 million
The maker of Ghirardelli and Russell Stover recently launched a review of its media-buying business for Europe, according to several people with direct knowledge who said it spends around $145 million per year on the continent.
The company wants to consolidate all the work with one holding company and centralize its business to compete with larger rivals like Mars, Nestle, and Mondelez. WPP, Dentsu, and Publicis previously had longstanding relationships with Lindt in the UK, Germany, and France, respectively. They're all vying for the business, according to people familiar with the situation, as are Havas and Omnicom, which recently won Lindt's business in China. Consulting firm ID Comms is running the review.
Lindt & Sprüngli declined to comment.
Ad giant Publicis is defending its $88 million Nestlé account in the UK.
Estimated spend: $88 million
Nestléis searching for a new media agency for its ad planning and buying business in the UK and Ireland as it competes with rivals like Mars and Lindt.
Publicis-owned Zenith, which handles media for Nestlé brands KitKat and Nespresso, is competing to defend its business. According to Nielsen estimates, Nestlé spent 63 million euros, or $88 million, on paid ads in the UK in 2020.
Nestlé declined to comment.
Kaiser Permanente's $85 million ad business is up for grabs.
Account: Kaiser Permanente
Estimated spend: $85 million
Kaiser Permanente is shopping for agencies to handle its US advertising, media-buying, B2B, and digital experience work, according to people with direct knowledge and a leaked document reviewed by Insider. The outcome could spell a big loss for IPG, which has made Kaiser's ads for the past 17 years, and is expected to try and keep the business.
While many advertisers cut their budgets last year, Kaiser increased its spend, by around 20% to at least $85 million, according to Kantar.
JetBlue is looking for growth after getting slammed by the pandemic.
Estimated spend: $66 million
JetBlue was one of the first in what's expected to be a wave of travel and hospitality brands reviewing their ad agencies in late 2020 and early 2021. Airlines lost an estimated $35 billion in 2020, and all brands, including smaller ones like JetBlue, are trying to attract customers while cutting costs.
JetBlue spent $66 million in advertising in 2019. But the airline industry slashed costs in 2020, and the winning agency will control a smaller budget; Comvergence estimates JetBlue spent as little as $4 million in 2020. It's unclear if IPG, which has had the business for 12 years, is pitching to keep its account.
TD Bank is reviewing its $22 million budget.
Account: TD Bank
Estimated spend: $22 million
TD Bank is reviewing its US and Canadian media and creative ad agencies, and that could mean a loss for Publicis Groupe, Havas Group, or Omnicom Group's TBWA\Chiat\Day.
Those agencies are pitching to defend and potentially grow their business, execs at these agencies said. One speculated that TD Bank was looking to consolidate its advertising with one or two agencies, going the way of others like Coke and Cigna.
TD Bank spent $22 million on paid media in the US in 2019, Kantar estimated.
ConEd is close to picking a new agency after dropping Havas.
Account: Con Edison
Estimated spend: $8.3 million
New York energy company Con Edison dropped its ad agency Havas — which handled its media and ad business since 2017 — and is expected to name a new agency in March.
The company started its search for a new creative and media agency around September, according to three people close to the situation. ConEd had hired a new head of branding and marketing last April, John Fredette, and the company has been building its own marketing team.
Havas did not pitch to defend the business. ConEd spent $8.3 million on measured media in the US in 2019, Kantar estimated.
Nutella is seeking an agency to grow its profile.
Estimated spend: Undetermined
In late 2020, Italian chocolate-maker Ferrero Group started searching for a new agency to promote the hazelnut spread Nutella around the world.
Ferrerro has shaken up the agencies it uses in recent months, moving its global ad-buying business from Omnicom to WPP and picking indie agency Terri & Sandy in the US. The winner of the ongoing pitch will create big-budget campaigns centered on holidays and other events.
Ferrero spent $22.6 million on marketing for Nutella in the US in 2019, according to market-research firm Kantar, but Insider could not determine the value of the current pitch.
Prudential is seeking an agency for the first time in a decade.
Estimated spend: Undetermined
Prudential is searching for a new agency for the first time in a decade.
The scope of the assignment is unclear, but people with knowledge said independent and big ad holding company-owned firms have been invited to pitch for the business after Prudential split with agency Droga5. This is another change for Prudential, which just hired a new CMO.
Prudential spent $53 million on advertising in 2019, excluding paid social campaigns, according to Kantar.