European Agencies: Pitching for Europe

Leading matchmaking services in Europe's big three markets of Germany, France and the UK offer an overview of business in their country during the past 12 months. GERMANY - Ute Hirschbiegel, AAR Germany What have been the biggest advertising and media pitches over the past 12 months? - Deutsche Bahn Image - the German rail network (38 million euros, won by Ogilvy & Mather, Frankfurt/Main) - was the biggest advertising pitch.Wella (15 million euros, won by MediaCom) was the biggest media pitch. Is the level of pitch activity higher or lower than last year? - The German advertising industry fell by between 1 and 3 per cent over the past 12 months. Given this figure, a 5 per cent decrease in pitch activity is a good guess. How optimistic are you for the advertising market in 2004? - For the rest of this year, we expect increased advertising activity across a limited number of sectors. The telecom industry, particularly T-Mobile, Vodafone and E-Plus, is a reason to be optimistic. How would you characterise the relationship between clients and agencies at the moment? - The relationship between internationally aligned agencies and their German clients is, in general, pretty sound. For the German agencies though, it's a different story. What is bothering clients most about agencies? - Clients expect higher cost-efficiency and more effective creative solutions, and don't always get what they've asked for. What is bothering agencies most about clients? - That they are still regarded by clients as suppliers rather than partners. How does the agency-client relationship compare to how it was five years ago? - Analysis of how it is now compared to five years ago shows a huge jump in the level of client expectation, fuelled by the rise in use of the internet and e-mail, piling pressure on agencies to react quicker. But, at the heart of where we are now, is the need to drive costs down. What advice would you give to agencies to improve their relationship with clients? - Most problems arise because agreements between clients and agencies are not cut and dried. It is crucial these are properly ironed out before niggling little problems become big ones. In order to evaluate the relationship properly, you have to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture. What are the three biggest challenges facing agencies in your market this year? 1 Making the best use of digital media. 2 Integrating all communication activities. 3 Producing truly outstanding creative ideas. FRANCE - Bernard Petit, Videotheque What have been the biggest advertising and media pitches over the past 12 months? - Carrefour (£120 million, won by Euro RSCG and Media Planning) and France Telecom (£200 million, split between MPG and Initiative across Europe) were the two big ones. Others were Gaz de France, Sanofi/Synthelabo, RATP, EDF and DIM. Is the level of pitch activity higher or lower than last year? - The end of 2003 was very active (with 12 pitches in three months), but the beginning of 2004 has been softer, with only seven pitches currently running. How optimistic are you for the advertising market in 2004? - The economy is, we hope, at the beginning of an upturn, but the overall mood has been damaged by terrorism and the French political crisis. Also, media spend is soft and renegotiation of client-agency terms is proving painful. How would you characterise the relationship between clients and agencies at the moment? - The client-agency relationship is at an all-time low, no question. What is bothering clients most about agencies? - Their inability to change. What is bothering agencies most about clients? - Agencies reproach clients mainly for failing to respect and value their work. How does the agency-client relationship compare to how it was five years ago? - The relationship is, no question, much more unbalanced than it was five years ago. It more closely resembles the adult-child relationship than one between two adults. What advice would you give to agencies to improve their relationship with clients? - To gain respect, be more accountable and create a more positive dialogue, I would consider the remuneration issue as central. We need to move towards a new value-based model, where agencies are paid by results. What are the three biggest challenges facing agencies in your market this year? 1 Integrating the "media revolution". 2 Answering clients' screams for accountability. 3 Developing a generation capable of finding ideas and strategies that are not only driven by advertising. THE UK - Suki Thompson, The Haystack Group What have been the biggest advertising and media pitches over the past 12 months? - Boots (£90 million integrated account, won by Mother, Naked, MediaCom and others), British Gas (£30 million, won by Clemmow Hornby Inge), Birds Eye (£25 million, won by Bartle Bogle Hegarty), and Camelot (£24 million, won by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO). Is the level of pitch activity higher or lower than last year? - There have been 345 stories in Haymarket press on ad pitches so far this year, and 305 in the same period in 2003; 47 DM pitches this year, 33 last. How optimistic are you for the advertising market in 2004? - A lot has been made of the upturn. I sense that it may not be as significant or as quick as we would like and the real impact will be felt in 2005. The real growth this year will continue to be enjoyed by non-advertising disciplines. How would you characterise the relationship between clients and agencies at the moment? - The word I might suggest for both sides is "demanding". This captures the issues of economics, competition, challenge and customers. What is bothering clients most about agencies? - Advertising agencies are still thinking in the traditional executions rather than developing a great brand idea that can be communicated through all the relevant channels. What is bothering agencies most about clients? - Greater demands for diminishing returns and lower degrees of loyalty. How does the agency-client relationship compare to how it was five years ago? - The "big idea" can come from anywhere, so the ad agency having the lead role is now not always the case. There is less contact at a senior client/agency level. Less time to plan and execute. Both still struggle to find ways to deliver speed to market in a sustainable fashion. What advice would you give to agencies to improve their relationship with clients? - Think more about the client's business and what drives customer trust in the brand. Listen more and talk less. Use the agency brains to think, not just to bulk up meetings...failing that, make sure that you have a good supply of Euro 2004 tickets and transport booked in advance! What are the three biggest challenges facing agencies in your market this year? 1 Delivering growth and profit ratios for their holding company, or gaining critical mass without losing culture. 2 Finding and investing in resources and talent. 3 Finding Euro 2004 tickets!

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