AAR reveals continued fall in creative reviews

The number of major creative reviews has continued to fall during the past six months, according to new figures published by the AAR.

The first half of 2002 included the commencement or resolution of only 40 creative pitches with a budget exceeding £10 million, down from 55 during the first six months of 2001. The figure includes the creation of rosters for the Department of Transport and Vauxhall as well as the ongoing Royal Bank of Scotland review. Other large-scale pitches included Lloyds TSB, Prudential and Transport for London.

At the same time, the number of clients choosing to move their advertising account without a formal pitch remained relatively stable at 37 per cent of all account moves, down from 39 per cent a year ago.

MMO2, which ditched Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO for the start-up Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, and Citroen, which moved from Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper to Partners BDDH, both switched agencies without recourse to a pitch.

In contrast, media agencies' new-business prospects improved during the past six months with the number of major account moves increasing from 28 to 36. Hutchison 3G, Vodafone, British Gas and Blockbuster were among those clients launching or completing reviews with a value of more than £10 million during the period.

The number of agencies shortlisted for creative or media pitches increased significantly from the first six months of 2001.

The average number of shops contesting a review rose from 2.6 to 3.2.

The six-month period did show an increase in the number of small-scale creative reviews. The total number of local creative pitches increased to 229 from 180 a year ago, a rise of 27 per cent. The increase in local media reviews was even more dramatic, with 137 pitches compared with last year's 78.

"The new-business marketplace is always a reflection of an agency's personal experiences, the AAR's director of advertising, Martin Jones, said. "While the number of account moves overall has increased, many agencies, particularly the large ones, are not seeing this reflected in their own new-business activity. This is due to a number of factors.

"First, the lack of major high-profile pitches, second, the fact that clients are still moving their business without a formal pitch, and third, because the number of quality agencies available to clients has never been higher. While the first two factors may well change in the short term, the third will almost certainly change the new-business market for the foreseeable future."

Retail proved the most active new-business sector, representing 10 per cent of all account moves compared with 7 per cent in the first half of 2001. The public sector, which has attracted political controversy because of the size of the Government's adspend, proved the second most active with 9 per cent.