For those who follow account moves with the obsessive interest of a
Campaign journalist, Barclays' recent creative and media account
switches could score high on the outrageometer.
But first, a look at the banking group's recent PR record. An outside
chief executive who resigned on his first day on doctor's orders, a
retail chief executive who appeared to condone general bank profiteering
by proposing charges for non-customers using its cash machines, an
unpopular branch closure programme making a mockery of the expensive
"big bank" ad campaign and revealed on the same day as details of the
chairman's £1.4 million salary...suddenly these agency switches
look rather less important.
Anyway, our tale begins with the £15 million media pitch,
originally scheduled to take place at the end of 2000 but postponed to
February this year to allow Barclays, a client with one of the more
complex internal marketing structures on the planet, more time for
The pitchlist was initially restricted to the banking group's roster
agencies, with MediaVest defending its account against Optimedia and
Starcom was invited on to the list later after a request from its parent
company, Starcom MediaVest Group, that both its agencies be allowed to
compete. Starcom won, and its appointment was one of the first decisions
made by Barclays' group marketing director, Simon Gulliford, who joined
Barclays in May this year from Emap, where he had worked with
There then followed last week's creative review - or, more accurately,
last week's transfer without a pitch - out of Leagas Delaney, the
creator of the "big" campaign, and into Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which had
also impressed Gulliford during his stint at Emap. Interesting, isn't
it, that such a high-profile advertising campaign can be dismissed out
of hand? It may have lacked something in warmth but it reportedly
performed well in differentiating Barclays from its many competitors, a
rare feat in financial services advertising. Interesting too that the
"big" theme will probably be retained.
You could argue lots of things here. You could argue that a new client
had come in and appointed his old muckers - twice.
You could also argue that said client emerges from this messy saga with
some credit; to move the creative account without a pitch when the
intention was to move all along at least avoided the charade of putting
Leagas Delaney through a pointless repitch.
But the most important thing to emerge is that this underlines three of
the fundamental truths about the advertising business. New client
syndrome is an inordinately common reason to review; nothing works like
an old contact when new business is at stake; reviewing advertising and
media accounts is an essential rite of passage for would-be marketing
heroes, and that's all there is to it.