Media Perspective: Adland is spending its time and money on prioritisation

By Ian Darby, ian.darby@haymarket.com, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 06 November 2009 12:00AM

Media agencies must have had an even greater sense than usual this week of playing in a game within a bigger game that isn't even in the same league as the real big game that is going on all around.

The Government's decision, under European Union pressure, to break up the partially state-owned banks such as Northern Rock and Lloyds Banking Group is potentially good news for the lawyers involved and, even, perhaps, for the taxpayer. But it is not so wonderful for the media agencies that spent much of this year pitching for the £80 million-plus Lloyds media business.

Even if you've lost a pitch, it's probably best to feel that the effort was somehow worthwhile instead of being part of some shadow dance ahead of the main event. And Mediaedge:cia, the winning agency, could be forgiven for wondering just what it has inherited.

Clearly such situations are the result of a crazy downturn created in part by the meltdown in a financial services sector that clods like me had been told all our lives was secure, only for it to fall apart.

But uncertainty around even the most established of high-street names should make agencies think again when deciding which new-business pitches to back with their wafer-thin resources.

And there are signs that this is already happening, that agencies are prioritising just what business to pitch for based on the potential rewards and the risk involved.

So with a premier league and lower league of clients emerging, they might find that they can't all have it their own way when the auditors tell them to pitch their business to achieve a 20 per cent saving.

All of which is probably scant consolation to Vizeum, which lost its HBOS account as part of the Lloyds review and this week learned that it will also lose Molson Coors after failing to make the final shortlist of two agencies.

As an aside, I'd say this doesn't represent any great failure by Vizeum and that before this it has, under the managing director, Grant Millar, been one of the more interesting and dynamic media agencies around.

That said, a bad run is a bad run and Vizeum will need to nip this in the bud before it becomes a habit. More so than other agencies, it's hope might lie in attracting trendsetting clients whose spend is likely to rise, not crumble, in the next three years. It perhaps sees its recent win, the comically named SeeSaw (spawn of Kangaroo), as one such prospect and it may well be right. Yet, like most clients around, it comes with a high level of risk.

How agencies must yearn for a Google, Vodafone or Orange on their client list. They might be challenging but their growth prospects could be immense.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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