Claire Beale on Advertising
Braced for the end-of-year push to clinch business and boost morale
Monday 11 December 2006
It's that time of year when ad agencies scrape together every insignificant new client project to try to bolster their end-of-year new-business tally. The weight of new accounts won across the past 12 months is one of the key indicators of agency health.
A new business bounty can extricate the bean counter from the CEO's back for a month or two, ensure a better "school report" in Campaign's annual review of agency performance and, crucially, does wonders for staff morale - particularly if it translates into healthy Christmas bonuses.
So you can imagine the mood at JWT this week after a decidedly disappointing year, capped by the last week's loss of its flagship Vodafone UK account. JWT, which had the lion's share of the UK business, lost out to Bartle Bogle Hegarty in a winner-takes-all pitch for the telecoms giant.
It certainly wasn't an easy decision for Vodafone's David Wheldon to make. JWT's parent, Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP, wheeled out the big guns to try to secure the business. But if you've seen the agency's "fairground" Christmas campaign for Vodafone, you'll guess the writing was already on the wall; Vodafone is not a client known for its ability to buy great advertising, but I'd put my money on BBH rather than JWT to sort that out.
It's the second big blow for WPP in as many weeks. Its United agency just lost the £75 million Sky account, and all WPP attempts to keep the business within the family by housing it at Grey failed miserably. So with Grey enjoying only a very modest year, JWT still way off track, and United forced into ripping itself up and starting again, there won't be much Christmas cheer in the advertising wing of WPP's Farm Street headquarters.
A solid performance from WPP's IPA Effectiveness winner Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, and an Ogilvy that finally looks to be getting its integrated act together to real effect, are the saving highlights. Don't expect Sorrell to accept further decline, though. Advertising's most formidable business-building force, the Sorrell machine will no doubt already be working on a 2007 turnaround.
* ROLEX. CHECK. Fat expense account. Check. Aston Martin. Check. No, not 007 getting ready for a date. Just your average successful adman inventorying the trappings of his trade. Or at least that's how the flash adman of popular media mythology would have it (and by the way, adwomen are much harder to stereotype).
In the heady Eighties of adland's heyday, perhaps this wasn't too far from the truth. These days, though ... well, OK, it's still not too far from the truth. According to the research behind Campaign's latest A-list of the ad industry's movers and groovers, the finest share quite a few characteristics with their stereotype.
The Merc is the car of choice for adland's elite, though chances are there's an Aston Martin in the garage for Sundays. Meanwhile, London's exclusive Hampstead is the most popular area to live in, closely followed by expensively trendy Islington.
Top TV viewing for our stars is that window on power and corruption, The West Wing. A whopping 86 per cent of our over-achievers are men, one in 10 are Geminis (clever, communicative, sociable), and if in doubt call them John - that's what five of them are (or Jonathan).
As a map of the people driving the communications industries, The A-list makes fascinating reading. But the truth is that the benefits of a successful advertising career now come at a much higher price than they used to: crushing quarterly financial pressures, international reporting structures, over-demanding under-paying clients, and no more long lunches. And forget ostentatious displays of wealth. Woe betide the adman who pulls up at a client meeting in his DB6: the procurement director would whip his calculator out in a flash.
Even adland's latest entrepreneur, Nick Hurrell - whose comfortable lifestyle and likeness to our children's favourite mail man has earned him the nick-name Postman Patek Phillippe - was flashing his Oyster card around at last week's A-list shindig. Turns out he's now master of all the bus routes between his multi-million pound Chelsea home and the West End.
Even so, the adman stereotype is clearly alive and well and enjoying a very healthy six-figure salary in an agency near you. But these days you can be sure he's earning practically every penny.
* MIND YOU, a fly on the wall at the IPA's annual President's reception (invitations dispatched this week to adland's finest), would find the flash adman hard to spot.
Try as it might, the IPA still can't quite shake off its fusty image. The preponderance of balding pates and comfy paunches at the annual get-together is a regular reminder that - for a vibrant, creative, youthful industry - advertising still has a nicely Establishment core.
So it will be interesting to see whether the newly anointed president elect, M&C Saatchi chairman Moray MacLennan, will bring a new image to bear. Certainly he will be the IPA's first poster-boy President, being possessed of all the looks and charm that the slick stereotype demands.
But as he begins to draw up the agenda for his presidency, MacLennan would do well to include a new emphasis on adland's unique ability to conjure cut-through creative ideas that build brands and boost British business's bottom line in the digital age.
The IPA is already well aware of the need to promote the effectiveness of the industry's work and its financial contribution to the economy. But somehow it never quite manages to drive home the sheer creative brilliance of its constituents.
Perhaps this is because creatives and the younger members of the industry don't so readily engage with the Association. But if ever there was a time to underline adland's role as the home of brilliant ideas, this is it.
* MAURICE LEVY, boss of Publicis Groupe, has denied he wants to buy rival holding company Interpublic Groupe. But sources reckon it's not quite so black and white. And maybe the news that IPG's DraftFCB agency has just lost the $570 million US Walmart account it won only a month ago might help Levy change his mind.
Clearly there's more to the Walmart loss than meets the eye (the marketing chief who appointed the agency left Walmart suddenly last week). Whatever, the loss is a significant blow to IPG; Walmart was a fleeting piece of good news in an otherwise gloomy year.
Not surprisingly the loss sent IPG's share price tumbling, by more than 6 per cent. And with the dollar so weak against the euro, IPG starts to look like an attractive target.
Will it survive intact through 2007? I wouldn't put money on that one.
Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'. firstname.lastname@example.org
Beale's Best In Show: Orange
Orange is one of those advertisers that got it brilliantly right straightaway and then spent years trying to rediscover the creative advertising plot. Then it started getting some great work through Mother. And then its France Telecom parent decided to hand the whole international consumer business to Publicis and its Fallon agency earlier this year.
It seemed a decision that had as much to do with politics and price as with advertising quality. All things considered, Orange has been pretty lucky. Fallon is one of London's most creative agencies and looks set to be a fine home for the brand. This is the first proper branding push from Fallon, and it's a sure sign that the work is on the right track. It gives Orange a really portable brand property - or rather, two: a pair of little wind-up characters created by Aardman Animations, a company whose work instinctively taps into the nation's affections.
The campaign introduces the new strategy of "togetherness" - our two plastic heroes are stuck together - and is designed to encourage more (mobile) contact between friends. It's got a lovely Dom Joly-esque feel to it. The two white characters trundle through the streets, and when they stop, bemused passers-by wind them up again. As mobile-phone ads go, this is one of the best around. But what Orange's advertising really needs now is some consistency; it's crucial that the wind-up guys are given real legs.
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