Argos holds £20m creative shoot-out

LONDON - Ogilvy & Mather is on alert following news that Argos has put its £20 million creative account into play.

Leo Burnett and Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper have both been invited to pitch for the brief to launch the retailer's next catalogue in a move that spells the end of an exclusive 13-year relationship between O&M and the high-street retailer.

O&M pitched for the brief on Tuesday, with both Euro RSCG and Burnett pitching the following day. A prompt decision is expected to follow.

Although the pitching brief is for the next catalogue, sources close to the pitch fully expect it to broaden to incorporate a significant slice of the business, if not the whole account. "There's definitely a bigger picture there," one source said.

The loss of the business would be a massive blow to O&M; the account is said to be worth more than £1 million in income.

The pitch is being overseen by Argos' new head of brand marketing, Helen Page. Page moved to the company earlier this month from her position as Abbey National's head of national communications. She oversaw the reappointment of Euro RSCG to the £14 million Abbey National account last October after a competitive pitch involving several other agencies, one of which was O&M.

Page's arrival is part of a number of recent moves in Argos' marketing department; Argos has also appointed Stephen Clark, formerly the Dixons Stores Group marketer, as its head of product marketing. Both Clark and Page report to the marketing director, Paul Geddes.

Argos, part of the retail giant GUS, has surprised industry pundits by proving to be a star performer in the high-street retail sector. Trading figures for the last crucial Christmas period saw it enjoy a 14 per cent jump in sales.

The company is due to be running another tranche of its "Brighter shopping, brighter prices" advertising next week. Previous activity for the brand, highlighting the variety of goods featured in its catalogue, has been fronted by the model Melinda Messenger. However more recent work has used a sunflower as its icon and the song Sunshine on a rainy day by Zoe.

Argos is also increasing its number of outlets; by the end of the year it will have 500 stores in the UK, with more planned.

An Argos spokeswoman declined to comment on the news.

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