Diary: Media big guns wheel out oldies to bring air of gravitas to Unilever

With £680 million of Unilever's European media billings up for grabs, you'd have expected the pitching agencies, Initiative, Carat and MindShare, to be doing everything they can to catch the eye and impress its global media director, Alan Rutherford.

You know the sort of things: the freshest new thinking; the most comprehensive research tools; the cleverest new strategies; the brightest young talent.

Err, no. Instead, the pitches have resembled some sort of shindig for hard-bitten, ageing former TV sales directors.

Witness the evidence: Carat fielded the former managing director of Carlton Sales Steve Platt, while MindShare roped in the services of Simon Pardon, the former managing director of Granada Enterprises (the incumbent agency, Initiative, for which the pitch is crucial, is, of course, chaired by Jerry Hill, late of the TSMS parish).

My, how the world has changed, hasn't it? Three poachers-turned- gamekeepers battling it out for one of the biggest European media contracts going.

In fact, their presence is understandable. Unilever is reportedly calling the review process "Project 40" as it hopes to screw its agency costs down by, oops we mean achieve savings of, 40 million euros, so the experience of these brutish former top-level negotiators and former semi-professional golfers is crucial.

Logistically, the pitch has been as complex as anything attempted since D-Day, with sources suggesting that local Unilever offices have been giving poor old Rutherford a bit of a hard time. Coincidentally, reports suggest that the Germans are causing the greatest number of headaches for Rutherford with accusations of dirty tricks against some of the agencies.

Fortunately, the pitching process is nearly over and we'll see which of our three former sales directors did the best job.

On an equally positive note, their presence also meant that MindShare didn't get the chance to get out its pretentious and irritating dancers and drummers again, as it did for the global HSBC pitch.

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