Wieden & Kennedy sees off TBWA Simons for Nike work

Nike’s decision to pull its pounds 9 million UK advertising account out of TBWA Simons Palmer is the culmination of a seven-year tussle for the high-profile business with Nike’s main incumbent in the rest of the world, Wieden & Kennedy.

Nike’s decision to pull its pounds 9 million UK advertising account

out of TBWA Simons Palmer is the culmination of a seven-year tussle for

the high-profile business with Nike’s main incumbent in the rest of the

world, Wieden & Kennedy.



When the then Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson first won Nike in

September 1990, it was a low-key account. Campaign’s story reporting the

news gave the sports brand second billing to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel

Company, which was judged to have been the agency’s big coup of the

week.



However, since then, Nike has flourished, and Simons Palmer with it.



The agency’s first major work for the brand was the Tony Kaye-directed

’Kick It’ commercial, released in September 1992, which dominated the

D&AD and Creative Circle awards the following spring.



The agency went on to win more awards, although the ousting of the

agency’s original creative directors, Chris Palmer and Mark Denton, in

February 1994 caused some ripples in the agency-client relationship.

That year’s major Nike poster, ’behind every great goalkeeper there’s a

ball from Ian Wright’, also won at D&AD and at the Campaign Press Awards

in spring 1994. Two months later, W&K moved closer to the kill, with Dan

Wieden beginning to make approaches in the UK market about recruiting

new staff.



Simons Palmer fought back with the poster, ’66 was a great year for

English football. Eric was born’, another winner at D&AD and the

Campaign Poster Awards.



In May 1995, Simons Palmer launched its first TV work for Nike in two

years, with a patriotic rugby epic. This was followed in September of

that year by Cantona’s return to English football after a nine-month ban

and a poster announcing: ’He’s been punished for his mistakes. Now it’s

someone else’s turn.’



But W&K was still dominant. The more prestigious television work on

Cantona’s return was handed to W&K, and the agency underlined its

supremacy when it opened satellite offices in Paris, Barcelona and Milan

in December 1995.



Nike was now a crucial client for Simons Palmer, and the agency created

a campaign using retired women sports stars and a daring London Marathon

poster featuring a paraplegic. But W&K remained strong, countering with

its famous ’good vs evil’ TV epic in March 1996.



As W&K increasingly gained footholds in the business, Simons Palmer

continued to produce posters, notably a host of executions for Euro 96 -

some of which misfired. However, Andy McKay and Paul Hodgkinson, who had

been creative directors on Nike since the departure of Palmer and

Denton, left the agency in the wake of its merger with TBWA, leaving two

new creative directors - Tony Malcolm and Guy Moore - in charge of

Nike.



This year has seen two rugby posters and the ’runner’s high’ campaign

using vivid hallucinogenic imagery.



The agency’s swansong for Nike was the well-received ’Parklife’ ad that

was first screened in July 1997, shortly before Nike UK came clean about

talking to other agencies, and less than five months before news broke

that Simons Palmer was finally to lose the battle for Nike.



Paul Simons, chief executive of TBWA Simons Palmer, does not blame the

succession of creative upheavals or fallout from January’s merger for

the loss of the account.



’We have lived with the constant possibility of W&K opening up in

London. I’m surprised that it’s taken seven years,’ he said.



In that time, the Nike account had gone from a pounds 1 million

specialist press and poster brand to a pounds 6 million flagship account

with global significance.



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