WCRS beats frontrunner Grey to Sky's £75m prize

The WPP-owned agency hit hard after being edged out in two-way shoot-out.

There was genuine surprise at WCRS when the chief executive, Debbie Klein, took the call late on Monday informing her that the agency had won the BSkyB business.

WCRS delivered its final presentation the previous Wednesday to a heavyweight Sky team comprising the brand marketing sales director, Charles Ponsonby, the newly appointed communications director, Matthew Anderson, and James Murdoch, BSkyB's chief executive.

Grey pitched for the £75 million account the following day, and a result was expected on Friday.

The WCRS pitch team, led by Klein and the executive creative director, Leon Jaume, presented work on Sky's "triple play" television, broadband and telephone offering. Grey is understood to have presented a wider brand strategy for the broadcaster.

A source at WCRS admitted that after 72 hours with no news from the broadcaster, the agency was expecting the worst and assuming Sky was discussing terms with Grey.

But by Monday, a Sky source confirmed: "We had two very strong presentations from both agencies and we are progressing discussions with WCRS. We continue to have a high regard for WPP and its agencies, and that relationship will continue."

Media, which is held by MediaCom, was unaffected by the review.

Sky's decision to award the account to WCRS will come as a major blow to WPP's Grey, headed by the chief executive, Tamara Ingram. The agency's new-business performance has been weak this year, and its treasured AOL account is up for review.

The WPP chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, was understood to have engineered a "Team Sky" solution, based at Grey, when the relationship between the incumbent, United London, and the broadcaster broke down in October.

It was widely predicted that Sorrell's relationship with Murdoch would make Grey's win almost a fait accompli.

And when the Sky chief marketing officer, Jon Florsheim, announced his intention to quit the company to join Homeserve, the balance looked to have swung further in Grey's favour. Anderson, his replacement, joined the company from WPP's Ogilvy PR in November 2005.

WCRS's win will have serious implications for United. A WPP source says the agency will make a loss next year and have to shed staff when Sky's contract expires at the end of January 2007.

At least six United staff who would have been members of "Team Sky" are now expected to move to WCRS under a TUPE transfer.

The Sky appointment caps a strong year for WCRS. The agency has landed accounts including Kerrygold, Littlewoods and the Royal Navy.

WCRS will begin working on the Sky account with a tactical campaign set to launch in January.

Both Sky and WCRS declined to comment until the terms of the appointment are finalised.

- Perspective, page 23

- Comment, page 40.