Jeremy Lee: Agencies need to learn that stability breeds success

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 24 May 2012 08:00AM

Passers-by in Whitfield Street last week might have heard a strangely unfamiliar sound emanating from TBWA\London's offices following the news that its network had picked up the global Four Seasons ad account after a hotly contested pitch.

Jeremy Lee: Agencies need to learn that stability breeds success

For an agency that has become more used to drowning its sorrows than toasting success in recent years, the Four Seasons win, coming just a week after it also surprised the industry by picking up the global ad brief for Adidas' 2014 World Cup campaign, meant that the popping of a Champagne cork was entirely legitimate. But, as a word of caution, it might be advisable to leave the Nebuchadnezzar in the chiller for now.

When John Parslow, Nissan's top UK marketer, said in last week's Campaign that he scrutinises the work that TBWA creates for its other clients and presses for the creatives who produce the best of it to be drafted on to his business, it was easy to think that this can't be one of the most onerous of his doubtless many tasks.

Because recent memory and a quick search on the Campaign website suggest that there isn't a huge amount of other TBWA work to consider (aside from that Muller spot of last year, which still has the ability to bring back nightmares). All credit, then, to TBWA for its client-handling skills in engendering such loyalty from its key client that makes up such a crucial part of its business. And who knows? Perhaps Parslow might find himself in the position of jealously eyeing up some Adidas or Four Seasons ads sometime soon.

Along with its sister agency DDB UK, these two UK branches of the Omnicom empire have, to put it mildly, had a rather troubled recent history. This is thrown into even sharper relief when you consider the success and (increasingly impressive) output of their infinitely more attractive and bigger sibling Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

It is easy to see how this disconnect came about when you consider the lack of management stability at the former agencies over the years compared with the consistency at the latter. While "jobs for life" are neither desirable nor realistic, the fact that there has been so much churn at TBWA in recent years (the most recent departure being its managing director, Andy De Groose) suggests that there has been no time to develop anything like a strategy - let alone a culture - for the agency. Equally, DDB seems to have never regained the stability that was once provided by James Best, who left five years ago.

While no-one takes much joy from watching two once-great agencies in decline, if there had been a little more thought given to management succession or retaining talent, they'd never have ended up in this state in the first place. Perhaps both can now look forward to a period of stability.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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