Jeremy Lee: Closed pitch isn't the good news story that NI badly needs

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 23 February 2012 08:00AM

The drama that surrounds the News International advertising pitch is a diverting sideshow to the darker problems that continue to cast a cloud over the media giant.

Jeremy Lee: Closed pitch isn't the good news story that NI badly needs

Ostensibly a cost-saving exercise (and given some of the sums that have been bandied about, it's no surprise that NI wanted to seek savings), now with all the personalities involved, the changes in decision-makers and the launch of The Sun on Sunday, the pitch seems to have elements of high drama and has turned into a bit of a Greek tragedy for WCRS. Incidentally, NI's interim marketing director, Jason Coward, formerly worked at WCRS but left abruptly.

Aside from raising interesting questions over the depth of the relationship between the two power-players, Sir Martin Sorrell and Rupert Murdoch, it also seems to mark an attempt by NI's new chief executive, Tom Mockridge, to try to put some of the less edifying events of its past behind it and start afresh with a new strategy and fresh thinking (not that there was necessarily anything wrong with the old stuff).

Well, that's the theory. But given that the pitch is effectively a closed one and that it has already been handed to WPP, which has created Team News to service the business, in one form or another, you could argue that NI has, at best, decided to ignore what the rest of the advertising industry has to offer or, at worst, gone with price alone. For a media brand that is dependent on advertising revenue and therefore must surely by extension believe in the power of marketing, this seems a bit of an odd stance to take. Sorrell's fulsome praise ahead of this weekend's launch of The Sun on Sunday also looked like smart posturing.

While running the NI account is not without its own particular challenges given recent events, and general ones given that it is in the media sector, it's one that involves two nationally important brands - The Sun and The Times - that deserve the best brand guardians the industry has to offer. It would therefore be near the very top of most agencies' wish lists, but is an opportunity that has been denied to them.

This is not to say that WPP will prove unable to pluck from its component parts a prized team to service the business. However, Grey lacks any newspaper experience and Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R was previously fired from the Times account by NI's Katie Vanneck-Smith. She moved the account to CHI & Partners, with which she'd previously worked when at The Telegraph. But it seems a shame for the industry that no-one else was given a chance to participate this time around.

If NI really wants to be seen to operate in a more open way and put the shadiness of some of its past behind it, then, in its own parochial way, this might not be the best of starts.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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