T-Mobile Names Initiative as US Media Agency of Record

By | January 11, 2021

T-Mobile will have a new agency partner to handle its media buying and planning in the U.S., ending relationships with three incumbent holding companies in the process.

The mobile carrier appointed IPG’s Initiative as its U.S. media agency of record following a media review led by ID Comms, which T-Mobile launched last year in the wake of a merger with Sprint.

“Now that Sprint is part of T-Mobile, we’re operating on a bigger scale and taking on bigger and bolder goals. As part of that, we reviewed agency relationships over the last few months. Our team heard from the best of the best and saw incredible thinking to help fuel our next phase of growth,” T-Mobile CMO Matt Staneff said in a statement.

“From the get go, we experienced a company whose beliefs and values were in sync with everything Initiative prides itself on. T-Mobile demands a level of bravery, with an appetite for groundbreaking work that makes the partnership ahead a natural fit,” Initiative U.S. CEO Amy Armstrong added in a statement. “It’s a real honor for us to be entrusted to help lead this brand into the future.”

Independent media agency Horizon was incumbent media agency for Sprint. Publicis Groupe’s Spark Foundry was incumbent for T-Mobile’s offline media buying and planning. GroupM’s Essence helped T-Mobile bring a portion of its digital media responsibilities in-house in 2018 and continued to parter with the company on digital media.

While all three incumbent holding companies were invited to participate in the process, according to sources with knowledge of the account, the mobile monolith made a decision to pursue a new approach heading into 2021. It plans to pursue new growth opportunities post-merger and will attempt to position itself as more of a direct competitor to AT&T and Verizon.

Publicis Groupe, which created a bespoke unit led by Publicis Seattle to pitch for the account, was the other finalist in the review, according to these sources. While Essence previously worked with T-Mobile, WPP’s GroupM selected MediaCom to participate in the pitch process, these sources explained.

Publicis Groupe declined to comment. Representatives for Horizon, Initiative and MediaCom were not immediately available for comment.

T-Mobile spent around $734 million on traditional media from July 2019 to June 2020, as well as $200 million on digital media, according to data consultancy COMvergence. Sprint spent an estimated $976 million over the same range, including $537 million on traditional media and $439 million on digital, according to COMvergence.