Editorial: Why should adland help foot bill for London 2012?

There are two certainties about the pitch for the 2012 Olympics account. One is that to expect the winning agency to sign up as a sponsor is outrageous. The other is that the organisers of the pitch will find some agency somewhere that's daft enough to take it on.

Any normal client imposing such a stipulation would almost certainly be told where to shove its business. But, of course, the 2012 Olympics is no ordinary piece of business. And those running the pitch know it. Why else would they expect the winning agency to donate £10 million of its time "in kind" to become an Olympics sponsor?

If common sense prevailed, adland would turn its back on such a suggestion. For one thing, you wonder whether the £10 million figure was dreamt up in Fairyland. The other is that it's almost certain that the winning agency would never see an effective return on its investment. So will the industry show the Olympics chancers the door? They should, but they won't. Agencies have always had a habit of letting hope run ahead of more pragmatic considerations. Word is that one major agency group that initially rejected the idea of pitching has been tempted to reconsider.

Doubtless the pitch organisers will point to the "psychological income" an agency would derive from handling such a prestigious piece of business that far outweighs the opportunity to earn a realistic remuneration and create award-winning work. That might be a compelling argument when times are good. But with adspends relentlessly reduced, and with warnings of more bad news to come, how could an agency be expected to devote sufficient resource to such an account, even one with such a high profile?

Thankfully, this kind of pro bono arrangement is rare. Agencies, in general, have become far too financially savvy to have any truck with them. Let's hope the 2012 Olympics pitch is a one-off because there are still times when the business throws caution to the wind. And in a climate like this, that's the last thing it needs to be doing.

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