A view from Maisie McCabe

No agency is truly safe from the sword of Damocles

When agency executives heard that there was a travel brand reviewing through AAR in February, they got excited.

Some people thought it might be Kuoni, the luxury travel operator, or potentially a new rival to Airbnb. Either way, it sounded intriguing. Instead, the brand turned out to be the hotel operator Premier Inn, which was reviewing after approaching a decade with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R.

RKCR/Y&R picked up the business in 2008 as the chain rebranded from Premier Travel Inn. At the time, the group was the biggest in the country following a number of mergers but it had very little brand awareness. Since then, the agency has created the hard-working if not creatively groundbreaking campaign featuring Lenny Henry. In 2014, the work won a silver IPA Effectiveness Award after returning £3.38 for every £1 spent on media.

According to the latest results from its parent company, Premier Inn is Whitbread’s best-performing division. Like-for-like sales increased by 4.2 per cent year on year in the 53 weeks to 3 March 2016. I know there are many reasons why marketers can call reviews but the Premier Inn business seems to be in a good place. It’s a shame, then, that RKCR/Y&R has decided against repitching for the account.

It’s no secret that RKCR/Y&R hasn’t had the best time of it over the past couple of years. The departure of Virgin Atlantic and Lloyds Bank to Adam & Eve/DDB and Vodafone to Grey London has hit the agency hard. Yet successes in the Premier League and TUI reviews show that there’s at least plenty of fight left in it. Moreover, Premier Inn is hardly a must-have client – defining itself as a travel brand suggests a deficiency in self-awareness. 

I was reminded of Premier Inn when Just Eat called its ad pitch earlier this month. The takeaway platform has kicked off a review despite reporting that its revenues climbed by more than 50 per cent in 2015. The Just Eat process follows a shake-up in its marketing department. Ben Carter joined as the UK marketing director and Barnaby Dawe, formerly of Sky and News UK, as the chief marketing officer early this year.

Red Brick Road’s work for Just Eat has also been memorable, if not creatively brilliant. Moreover, marketing has been core to the company’s growth: in its annual report, Just Eat said that it was using TV advertising to drive its expansion in every market it operates in around the world. Yet, in another similarity with Premier Inn, the agency that has helped power this growth over the past couple of years has decided not to repitch for the business.  

It seems sometimes that producing effective work just isn’t enough.