Mark Wnek on Advertising

Is it the end of Jamie Oliver's pukka tukka at Sainsbury's?
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The Independent Online

It's going to be one of the biggest, most intriguing pitches in history; if you were going to write a movie about Adland it would be your hook: it's the battle for the giant Sainsbury's advertising account currently held by the UK's biggest agency, AMV BBDO.

The review coincides with a series of allegedly authoritative research studies revealing, apparently, that the great British public mistrusts celebrity endorsement in advertising. There is a suspicion, it seems, that the celebs may just be doing it for the money - what a cynical thought! One of the names that seems to come up is that of Sainsbury's front man Jamie Oliver. The timing of all of this is either bad luck for AMV or the result of some highly devious spin.

Either way, the long list for the pitch reads like a Who's Who of UK advertising powerhouses: JWT, DDB, McCann Erickson, BBH, Leo Burnett, TBWA and newly bought-out DLKW. This list is expected to be whittled down to three, who will battle it out with AMV.

The director of marketing at Sainsbury's, Helen Buck, will have the most to say about it (the chief executive Justin King may also have something to add). Those who know her describe Buck as bright and charming, and unswayed by anything but the best work.

I can't pretend to have any insight into this pitch battle, other than to feel a little sorry for the excellent AMV - still probably the UK's best all-round ad agency. While it was perhaps a little fortunate to steal the account from M&C Saatchi, other than M&C it seems the most obvious home for Sainsbury's in terms of scale and culture. (M&C can't pitch - it now has Somerfield.) The Oliver work has also, on the whole, been good stuff in a very difficult category.

So, AMV is favourite to retain the business in my book - unless somebody else comes up with a simply blinding idea.

Then again, it's impossible to predict what a client's frame of mind may be at a given stage: it is entirely possible that Sainsbury's may feel that it needs to resort to bare-knuckle streetfighting on all fronts to reverse its current position. When a client is inclined toward change for change's sake, there is little an incumbent can do.

If Sainsbury's really does believe that it's war, then expect the muscular and hungry new McCann and the strategically brilliant TBWA to be in the frame. These two are the most obviously equipped to handle the high-ground/ hygiene approach - big thinking and nimble execution - necessary for big retail business.

Meanwhile, all the agencies concerned will be having nightmares at the terrifying presence of (said in one of those Hollywood movie-trailer voices) The Pitchmonster, aka DLKW, the hottest pitchers since the big fat bloke with the handlebar moustache from the New York Yankees.

One winner already is The Haystack Group, which will be administering the pitch. Presided over by the husband-and-wife team Alan and Suki Thompson, Haystack has also recently been appointed to oversee the big international Unilever pitch for Persil. A shoot-out between the incumbent Lowe, JWT and TBWA, the assignment is a true coming-of-age for Haystack.

* Among the usual plethora of e-mails lauding my column came a rare one from a "reader" unhappy about my "personal vendetta" (?!) against the ad trade rag Campaign. (Could this be the "personal vendetta" I began with my 750-word eulogy on the event of Campaign's redesign?) Apparently, the reader, in a minority, so far, of one, would like me not to write about the people who write about the ad business, but about the ad business itself. I am sorry to report that this is impossible: you can't write about adland without writing, now and again, about Campaign. This reader's letter goes against a steady mailbag of those pleased that at last Campaign's point of view on things, while almost invariably interesting and authoritative, is no longer the only one in town. I agree that journalists writing about journalists is an ever-decreasing circle that eventually disappears up its own bum. But a single powerful newspaper with a single powerful point of view - Campaign's enviable position in UK adland - not only has a touch of the Orwells about it, but is also a potential recipe for arrogance and laziness. I, for one, will not hesitate to give Big Brother a boot up the arse when the occasion demands.

No more Grey days for Mellors in NYC

Spare a thought for ad guru Tim Mellors, former creative chief of Grey London, who retired from the ad business - only to be lured back by his old partner, the American former Grey London chief executive Steve Blamer, this time to be the creative chief of Grey New York.

That's quite a schlep, both physically and emotionally, for a 50-year-old, even one as evergreen as Mellors - particularly as he had been looking forward to his new, rather gentler career of psychotherapy.

No sooner had Mellors arrived in NYC some months ago than WPP bought Grey and Blamer announced his departure for the leadership of FCB Worldwide.

I caught up with Tim in London last week and found him surprisingly chipper. Mellors had found Grey's New York office quite daunting on arrival, but since Blamer's departure people had rallied round and life was pretty good.

That's not to say that Mellors doesn't miss the charismatic, livewire Blamer. "It was an enormous shock, to say the least," Tim told me. "But, in the end, what can you do when new opportunities come along?" And Grey's loss is FCB's gain: Blamer is one of the most energetic can-do chief executives in the business.

Meanwhile, intriguing speculation surrounds who Sir Martin Sorrell will bring in as the new head of Grey, with a lot of money riding on the former UK Y&R boss Jim Kelley.


A car commercial leaning heavily on special effects fills my "best of" spot for the second successive week. But, unlike the jolly VW Gene Kelly spot, the Campbell Doyle Dye (CDD) commercial for the new Mercedes A-Class is a brave, dark look at stress. In the spot we witness a man under the pressure of preparing and delivering a presentation to the board. Shot by the superstar commercials director Frank Budgen, the commercial jumps and shimmers in and out of focus, the filmic embodiment of neurosis, until our "hero" finally escapes to the liberating confines of his Mercedes. Like all CDD's Mercedes work it oozes style, substance and class, positioning Mercedes as the serious car brand. Superbly edited by Paul Watts, with special effects to match from Glassworks.