Jeremy Lee: The biggest pitch of 2012 could be the most intriguing too

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 10 May 2012 08:00AM

Chances are that a few trips to country boltholes have been scrapped this weekend, to be replaced by unpaid overtime, ahead of chemistry meetings with Tesco next week. As UK advertising pitches go, this is the big one.

Jeremy Lee: The biggest pitch of 2012 could be the most intriguing too

Tesco has, with the help of Oystercatchers, pulled together an interesting selection of agencies. Aside from the incumbent, The Red Brick Road, withdrawing from the process (the business equivalent of declaring before being bowled out), there's something rather intriguing about the choice of SapientNitro alongside the more predictable larger shops.

Even more noteworthy - particularly for the Oystercatchers management team - is the presence of a WPP agency. After all, it's just over a year since Oystercatchers was forced to issue a humiliating statement as part of a confidential legal settlement with WPP for its part in assisting a breakaway branding agency that was in the process of being formed by WPP employees.

The grovelling statement expressed "deep regret" and the intermediary apologised "unreservedly". It would be perfectly understandable and undeniably human, then, if it enjoyed its opportunity to make WPP's JWT put in the hours and sweat a bit.

Almost as interesting is which agencies have not made the cut. Given that the Co-op pitch is running concurrently, some have presumably decided to focus on this, perhaps hoping that its focus on "ethical sourcing of suppliers" is consistent with its treatment of its advertising supplier, and equally that Tesco's "everyday low pricing" positioning might be something that, contractually at least, is best avoided. Equally, who would be surprised if, on the QT, some are trying their hand at both? Those that have made neither list yet and have no conflict must surely be ruefully licking their wounds.

How the Tesco pitch is played out over the coming weeks can only be matter for speculation - but it will certainly be gripping. Matt Atkinson, its group marketing director and formerly the chief executive of EHS 4D, is being uncharacteristically quiet for an ex-adman. Some suggest that the account may be divided into brand and price-promotion work.

Others suggest - admittedly largely from those that failed to make the cut - that it will be another holding group play, the entire business serviced on a group level, such as by an Engine collective or a WPP "Team", that its proponents claim provide "best in class". Cynics, on the other hand, could argue that such grouped agency strategies are, to quote the favoured and laboured sound bite of George Galloway, "three cheeks of the same backside", championing neither excellence in one thing nor the other. Nonetheless, the eclectic agency shortlist suggests there's everything to play for.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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