PERSPECTIVE: The restructuring of giant clients means trouble for agencies

By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 30 July 1999 12:00AM

Sorry, I’ve just got to get this out of the way first. It’s time to name and shame (worst first): Colin Mills of Carat, Lucy Purdy at Publicis, Ian Lomas of BMP OMD, Tim Elton at BBJ and WCRS’s Stephen Woodford. Your minus scores are the reason ’Serendipity’ is languishing at 177 in the Fantasy Agency League (having once been second!) and I’m starting to feel less than serendipitous. That’ll teach me for buying some of you on the strength of little more than an agent’s video (no excuse for you, Woodford).

Sorry, I’ve just got to get this out of the way first. It’s time to

name and shame (worst first): Colin Mills of Carat, Lucy Purdy at

Publicis, Ian Lomas of BMP OMD, Tim Elton at BBJ and WCRS’s Stephen

Woodford. Your minus scores are the reason ’Serendipity’ is languishing

at 177 in the Fantasy Agency League (having once been second!) and I’m

starting to feel less than serendipitous. That’ll teach me for buying

some of you on the strength of little more than an agent’s video (no

excuse for you, Woodford).



But then New PHD’s Laura James was acquired the same way and she’s done

me proud, if not quite as magnificently as my twin saving graces:

MindShare’s new-business director, Janine Abrahams, and AMV’s Peter

Souter.



The transfer list is beckoning unless some of you can score in the

latest consolidation-related business-go-round that this week sees

Reckitt & Colman and Benckiser become Reckitt Benckiser, the world’s

largest household cleaning products company, while RHM announces the

least surprising review of the year.



These two news stories cast minds back unavoidably to last month and

that letter from RHM’s chairman, Paul Wilkinson (Campaign, 25 June). He

felt RHM’s pounds 15 million budget was not valued highly enough by

agencies beholden to network masters and their network clients. His

miffed state was exacerbated by the restructuring of DMB&B as D’Arcy -

to the detriment of local power - and the way he found out about it.



Fast forward a month to a Reckitt-Benckiser deal which was also kept

very secret in advance. Informing Ted Roose, Robin Wight and Ben Langdon

was hardly the top priority of the team that sorted out all the internal

egos and politics and handled the launch announcement so

successfully.



Nor could the admen have expected it to be so.



But they now face an anxious time, whatever their clients tell them (a

month ago, Wilkinson said he was not reviewing). It may be worse, one

might suggest, for the local London agencies, Roose & Partners and WCRS,

than it is for McCann-Erickson. That’s because they were appointed as a

result of Benckiser’s relative lack of clout, which denied it access to

network agencies that preferred Procter & Gamble or Unilever (even

Reckitt & Colman) in the category.



Meanwhile, McCann-Erickson has been steadily consolidating its

international relationship with Reckitt. This is unlikely to be harmed

by a deal which brings a greater need for cost-cutting

rationalisation.



At the risk of repeating myself, this is the new world order, like it or

not. RHM is not immune to the business imperatives that drove the

Reckitt Benckiser deal. So good luck to the agency that wins the fine

RHM portfolio of brands. And, may it watch out for the day that RHM,

soon to be demerged from Tomkins, again becomes part of an international

food conglomerate.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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