CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/INTERNATIONAL REVIEWS - Is local excellence always at the mercy of networks? Francesca Newland writes

It's not good and it's not fair, but more and more clients are ignoring successful local campaigns in order to reap the cost savings permitted by regional ad drives.

It's not good and it's not fair, but more and more clients are ignoring successful local campaigns in order to reap the cost savings permitted by regional ad drives.

Most agencies and clients would be proud to have the recent Olympus cameras work, produced by Lowe Lintas in London, on their books. The Tony Kaye-directed spot starring Joan Collins, and more recently a press campaign to highlight the camera's ability to pick up detail, were both acclaimed work.

But this has not deterred the brand's European head office from calling a review and handing the pan-European account to FCB in Germany. The agency will produce a pan-European campaign to launch Olympus' latest digital camera.

Like all such cases, Olympus' move is not quite as straight-forward as it appears. Insiders say the former Olympus UK marketing director Ian Dickens went behind the backs of his German bosses and tried to sell the 'Joan Collins' campaign to the US market. He left Olympus a year ago to go on a round-the-world sailing trip.

Although his successor, Sara Cubitt, tries to say the right thing, her disappointment is obvious. 'FCB presented a very strong pitch that excited Olympus Europa,' she explains. Even if the pitch idea did less to excite her, she is keen to point out that Lowe Lintas retains its position as the Olympus UK incumbent.

Client politics aside, the case of Lowe Lintas and Olympus represents a practice that began decades ago and has recently become commonplace.

Chris Powell, the chairman of BMP DDB, is philosophical about the trend.

'It first happened to me 25 years ago when Renault moved taking one-third of our billings with it,' he says. 'But it has never hurt as much since.'

There's been plenty of unprovoked DDB account moves since then. The agency won a D&AD gold for its Doritos idents, before the Walkers account was shifted into BBDO.

But Powell has experienced such moves to the extent that he knows 'you win as many as you lose if you are part of a network. Global alignments are an imperative to business as they are economically sound.'

His mention of networks is key. Independent agencies risk losing business in global alignments, but never receiving them. One independent agency boss admits: 'The lead agency always wins in the end. Local loses nine times out of ten to the bigger party. A small agency is not in a sustainable position. That is why start-ups have to have a network; if they don't, they die.'

Broadly speaking this is correct, but there are exceptions. Many international advertisers are turning to small, independent hot-shops for some of their international work. Mars, Coca-Cola and Unilever all handed pan-European slices of business to Mother last year (Pedigree Petfoods, Dr Pepper and Super Noodles, respectively).

So Lowe Lintas' loss of the Olympus account, perhaps temporarily, is not the end of the world. It is simply part of the ebb and flow of account moves that keeps agencies on their toes.



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