CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/PITCHES - To repitch or not to repitch: it's a difficult question. Being the incumbent does not guarantee success in a repitch, Jenny Watts writes

Gaffer and his Teafolk chums face the axe after 18 years following

Tetley's decision to change its brand strategy, but the folk at D'Arcy

can pat themselves on the back for retaining the business after a

competitive pitch.

The agency beat off HHCL & Partners, TBWA/London and Partners BDDH to

retain the £5 million account last week. D'Arcy has held the

account for more than 21 years, so it knows its product inside out. But

is that enough to guarantee retention?

For all the promises about the pitch being a "level playing field", it's

often true that the incumbent is not in with a chance. "The incumbent is

often there as a sop. The marketing director finds it easier to include

you than saying you're not on the list," Barry Cook, the managing

director of D'Arcy, says.

Research shows that agencies repitching for business have only a 5 per

cent chance of keeping the account. So a long history with the reviewing

client can be key. "We thought about explaining the knowledge, ability

and history we have compared with the others, while using it to bring

fresh knowledge to the table," Cook says.

But a lengthy period on an account can leave clients privately

complaining of an agency's complacency. "Just because you have an

account for years doesn't mean that you get to understand it," Trevor

Beattie, the chairman of TBWA/London, says. And other times a pitch is

called to allow clients a fresh view from an outside agency, or by a

client who is simply fed up with the existing agency.

Either way, most incumbents see a repitch as effectively serving the

agency with a redundancy notice. "The reality is that a repitch is

tantamount to the agency being fired," an industry executive says.

Sometimes it's just a wake-up call. "You sometimes think they're just

using a pitch situation to slap their own agency, which is wrong. But

you never know," Beattie says.

However, when the incumbent is reappointed, the other pitching agencies

are quick to designate the pitch a sham. Equally, successful incumbents

point to the race being won fairly, having proved they recognise where

things had gone wrong and had made the necessary changes.

"We showed willing to deal with the points of concern that the client

had raised," Judy Mitchem, the new-business director of M&C Saatchi,

says of its reappointment.

So what should an incumbent do? The ability to step back and reassess

the situation, while approaching the challenge with enthusiasm, is

essential. Whether the client will benefit from a sharper act remains to

be seen. But the signs look good. "When Tetley reappointed us, it was a

fabulous confirmation of our relationship with them," Cook says.


Client: Holsten/Review: June 2000

TBWA London saw off WCRS and Leagas Delaney to retain the £5

million account in June last year. Observers cited the tepid reaction to

The Fast Show campaign - compared with the previous celebrity-fronted

spots including Griff Rhys Jones and Denis Leary - as the trigger for

the review. But the brand has a strong heritage at the agency. "When

push came to shove, we understood the brand best compared with anyone

else," TBWA's Trevor Beattie says. It's too early to see if new work

featuring Ray Winstone talking about Holsten being "the Daddy" of beers,

which broke in April, will shift sales.

Client: BT/Review: February 1999

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO doubtless breathed a huge sigh of relief when

it defied the odds to retain its £60 million BT business in

February 1999. Cue Steven Spielberg's friendly alien, ET, sounding the

death-knell for the long-running "It's good to talk" campaign, initially

fronted by Bob Hoskins. While some saw a superstar alien with universal

appeal as an appropriate new face for the communications giant, others

questioned its durability. Two years later, he was axed and the BT

roster agency St Luke's developed the over-arching strategy behind the

new campaign.

Client: Barclaycard/Review: November 1998

In November 1998, BMP DDB fought off Bartle Bogle Hegarty, WCRS and

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to retain the £15 million Barclaycard

account that it had held for ten years. At the time, it was said that

Barclaycard had been disappointed in BMP's "don't put it off" campaign,

which was scrapped just ten months after it was introduced to replace

the popular Rowan Atkinson-fronted spots. Now, Angus Deyton - and his

supercilious condescension - is still fronting its campaigns, which most

agree are already tired.

Client: August 2000

M&C Saatchi retained the £5 million account in August last year

after a pitch against Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Wieden & Kennedy and BMP

DDB. "We had a client who wanted to reappraise everything and shake

things up, which is quite understandable," Judy Mitchem, the agency's

new-business director, says. "We went all guns blazing out to win that

piece of business. We showed that vital combination of hunger and great

creative work." The new work is visually similar to the pre-pitch

campaign, but has a greater emphasis on art direction and carries a new

message. It is now designed to broaden the perception of Lastminute from

just a travel website by highlighting the other last-minute leisure

bargains on offer. M&C Saatchi was originally appointed in July 1999

when the site was a considerably smaller operation.