Jeremy Lee: Walker Media is a victim of Barclays' network oddity

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 29 September 2011 08:00AM

Sadly, given recent corporate history, we've probably all got accustomed to banks making poor, greedy or heartless decisions.

Jeremy Lee: Walker Media is a victim of Barclays' network oddity

But this must be little comfort to Walker Media, which last week had its five-year tenure on Barclays' media account brought to an abrupt end through, it seems, no fault of its own.

While some credit must be due to Maxus, which Group M has successfully used its muscle to shore up into an expanding conflict shop (although you could argue that this has been at some cost to MediaCom), I can't help thinking that there was something rather poignant about Walker Media losing the business.

Of course, Walker Media always looked like it was in a tricky position. When Barclays bizarrely decided that it all of a sudden needed an agency with a network, Walker Media hurriedly cobbled together an alliance with MPG Media Contacts. Ultimately, and after a hard-fought three-way pitch, it was unsuccessful.

In last year's Campaign School Reports, we suggested that it would be wise for Walker Media to reduce its dependence on its three big blue-chip clients in case one of them did the unthinkable and jumped ship. As advice goes, it probably wasn't the most helpful, useful or insightful - in fact, it looked like the blindingly obvious. But it still stands.

While the agency has picked up the odd bit of business here and there, the full extent of The Health Lottery's real media spend will not become clear until later, so the loss of £40 million worth of Barclays billing is undoubtedly a blow.

It is fortunate, then, that its other two big spenders, Marks & Spencer and DSGi (the owner of the Currys brand), currently show rather more loyalty and apparently value the service that Walker Media provides.

The agency's chairman, Phil Georgiadis, is a highly principled and thoughtful man and can be forgiven for feeling rather sore about the whole episode. He has put together an interesting agency built on compelling business principles - competitive pricing, transparent line-by-line trading and a top-level bespoke media servicing for clients - that seem somewhat at odds with the Group M approach.

These principles make Walker Media distinctive, allowing it to compete against the bigger boys, and such a valuable and profitable part of M&C Saatchi Group. Walker Media also contributes greatly to the vitality of the UK media scene (an essential role for any agency, as a recent correspondent pointed out).

I hope that while the loss of Barclays is a disappointment for the agency, there are still enough domestic clients that do place value on Walker Media's approach and are not bamboozled by the supposed need for a network.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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