Gaffer and his Teafolk chums face the axe after 18 years following
Tetley's decision to change its brand strategy, but the folk at D'Arcy
can pat themselves on the back for retaining the business after a
The agency beat off HHCL & Partners, TBWA/London and Partners BDDH to
retain the £5 million account last week. D'Arcy has held the
account for more than 21 years, so it knows its product inside out. But
is that enough to guarantee retention?
For all the promises about the pitch being a "level playing field", it's
often true that the incumbent is not in with a chance. "The incumbent is
often there as a sop. The marketing director finds it easier to include
you than saying you're not on the list," Barry Cook, the managing
director of D'Arcy, says.
Research shows that agencies repitching for business have only a 5 per
cent chance of keeping the account. So a long history with the reviewing
client can be key. "We thought about explaining the knowledge, ability
and history we have compared with the others, while using it to bring
fresh knowledge to the table," Cook says.
But a lengthy period on an account can leave clients privately
complaining of an agency's complacency. "Just because you have an
account for years doesn't mean that you get to understand it," Trevor
Beattie, the chairman of TBWA/London, says. And other times a pitch is
called to allow clients a fresh view from an outside agency, or by a
client who is simply fed up with the existing agency.
Either way, most incumbents see a repitch as effectively serving the
agency with a redundancy notice. "The reality is that a repitch is
tantamount to the agency being fired," an industry executive says.
Sometimes it's just a wake-up call. "You sometimes think they're just
using a pitch situation to slap their own agency, which is wrong. But
you never know," Beattie says.
However, when the incumbent is reappointed, the other pitching agencies
are quick to designate the pitch a sham. Equally, successful incumbents
point to the race being won fairly, having proved they recognise where
things had gone wrong and had made the necessary changes.
"We showed willing to deal with the points of concern that the client
had raised," Judy Mitchem, the new-business director of M&C Saatchi,
says of its Lastminute.com reappointment.
So what should an incumbent do? The ability to step back and reassess
the situation, while approaching the challenge with enthusiasm, is
essential. Whether the client will benefit from a sharper act remains to
be seen. But the signs look good. "When Tetley reappointed us, it was a
fabulous confirmation of our relationship with them," Cook says.
BEATING THE ODDS: FOUR INCUMBENTS THAT RETAINED THEIR AD ACCOUNTS
Client: Holsten/Review: June 2000
TBWA London saw off WCRS and Leagas Delaney to retain the £5
million account in June last year. Observers cited the tepid reaction to
The Fast Show campaign - compared with the previous celebrity-fronted
spots including Griff Rhys Jones and Denis Leary - as the trigger for
the review. But the brand has a strong heritage at the agency. "When
push came to shove, we understood the brand best compared with anyone
else," TBWA's Trevor Beattie says. It's too early to see if new work
featuring Ray Winstone talking about Holsten being "the Daddy" of beers,
which broke in April, will shift sales.
Client: BT/Review: February 1999
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO doubtless breathed a huge sigh of relief when
it defied the odds to retain its £60 million BT business in
February 1999. Cue Steven Spielberg's friendly alien, ET, sounding the
death-knell for the long-running "It's good to talk" campaign, initially
fronted by Bob Hoskins. While some saw a superstar alien with universal
appeal as an appropriate new face for the communications giant, others
questioned its durability. Two years later, he was axed and the BT
roster agency St Luke's developed the over-arching strategy behind the
Client: Barclaycard/Review: November 1998
In November 1998, BMP DDB fought off Bartle Bogle Hegarty, WCRS and
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to retain the £15 million Barclaycard
account that it had held for ten years. At the time, it was said that
Barclaycard had been disappointed in BMP's "don't put it off" campaign,
which was scrapped just ten months after it was introduced to replace
the popular Rowan Atkinson-fronted spots. Now, Angus Deyton - and his
supercilious condescension - is still fronting its campaigns, which most
agree are already tired.
Client: Lastminute.com/Review: August 2000
M&C Saatchi retained the £5 million account in August last year
after a pitch against Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Wieden & Kennedy and BMP
DDB. "We had a client who wanted to reappraise everything and shake
things up, which is quite understandable," Judy Mitchem, the agency's
new-business director, says. "We went all guns blazing out to win that
piece of business. We showed that vital combination of hunger and great
creative work." The new work is visually similar to the pre-pitch
campaign, but has a greater emphasis on art direction and carries a new
message. It is now designed to broaden the perception of Lastminute from
just a travel website by highlighting the other last-minute leisure
bargains on offer. M&C Saatchi was originally appointed in July 1999
when the site was a considerably smaller operation.