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Sun 7 Aug 2005 04:00 AM

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OMD lays claim to the Gulf’s number one spot

Media agency OMD claims it has become the number one agency in the Gulf after overtaking its rival Starcom in the billings league table.

Media agency OMD claims it has become the number one agency in the Gulf after overtaking its rival Starcom in the billings league table.

The figures, which are based on numbers from research group Ipsos-Stat, suggest the Omnicom-aligned OMD spent US$178 million on behalf of clients for the first half of 2005, while Publicis-backed Starcom slipped to second place with US$165 million.

However, the numbers do not come directly from Ipsos-Stat and OMD says it has adjusted them to allow for pieces of business wrongly allocated to other agencies. And the true spending power of both agencies is likely to be overestimated as Ipsos-Stat gets its data by logging media usage and calculating it against rate card prices.

But the data still offers a useful yardstick to gauge the varying fortunes of the region’s agency networks.

According to the figures, the third highest agency in terms of bookings was Mediaedge:cia from the WPP stable at US$133 million, while FMCG giant Unilever, which until recently did not use a media agency, was fourth at US$92 million.

“A leadership position is only important in that it enables us to deliver better results for our clients,” said Elie Khouri, regional managing director at OMD Middle East. “While it is a significant achievement, the overall number one slot was never a goal by itself.

“What makes this truly significant however is that we also rank highly across the various media sectors. Media is a numbers game, where bigger tends to be better.”Oussama Jamal, Starcom Media Group’s operations director for the Middle East, declined to comment on the figures, but said: “We haven’t done the exercise of calculations yet. We are concentrating on the business rather than being number one.”

Starcom had maintained a leading position in terms of billings since launching in 2000, but a falling out with the Choueiri Group, which controls the TV ad sales for many of the leading Middle East networks, is thought to have contributed to the agency’s drop in billing revenue.

And Omnicom’s grip on the buying league is only likely to increase. The network’s buying arm, Magna, has agreed to buy space on behalf of Unilever.

In terms of the holding groups, the top ten sees a three-way split. Omnicom-aligned agencies have an estimated US$270 million of the market, WPP takes US$265 million and Publicis US$260 million.

However, the holding company allocations need to be treated with particular caution. Although many Middle East agencies are branded as part of worldwide networks owned by the international holding companies, they are often not always wholly owned by them.

In several cases the international holding companies have only a minority stake with a larger local partner and the buying does not follow the international alignment.

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