It's not often that a big-budget global creative jewel is up for
grabs - so the Amsterdam-based 180 and TBWA/Worldwide have much to
celebrate this week. The pair beat 180's roster agency, Leagas Delaney,
and its chosen network, DDB, to secure a £70 million Christmas
bonus from Adidas-Salomon.
Adidas' head of global brand concepts and advertising, Neil Simpson, was
one of those charged with the Santa Claus role in this Yuletide
carve-up, working with the Adidas board member, Erich Stamminger, to
conduct the review. While maintaining that both Leagas Delaney and 180
had produced sound work, Simpson explains that the brand was crying out
for a global network infrastructure to support the creative output. He
expects to reap benefits in terms of brand consistency and international
cohesion as well as cost savings.
"It was crazy that we were talking to a whole variety of individual
units," he says of the plethora of local agencies adapting the roster
agencies' work to different markets. "Producing work has taken more time
and effort internally within companies than it should have done."
The complex pitch, which saw both roster agencies pick a network to
pitch with, leaves Simpson with a fairly unique agency line-up - a
worldwide network coupled with a Dutch hotshop still relatively unknown
in the wider ad world. The revelation that TBWA has taken equity in 180
indicates that the two agencies will be working very closely together in
"It's a seamless agency now," Simpson says. "TBWA has taken an equity
position within 180. The business will operate as one agency with two
Briefs will be issued to these two creative hubs, based at 180's office
in Amsterdam and TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles. 180's creative teams,
already proven on the business, will work alongside the creative chiefs
Lee Clow and Chuck McBride to develop global work running out of the
While insiders say 180 may sell completely to TBWA by the end of the
year, a cautious Chris Mendola, a founding partner of 180, says "at this
point the only discussions are about a small investment that TBWA will
make in 180".
With TBWA's global stature and its newly acquired 180 equity, the
network could eclipse the Dutch shop. Such a suggestion, though, is
quickly refuted by Mendola. "We want to come together as one agency," he
responds. "The way we step up to the work will be completely
And the partnership is already well-oiled. "There's definitely a history
between us," says Mendola, who worked with Clow at Chiat/Day on Reebok
and McBride at Wieden & Kennedy on Nike.
At the time of the review, Simpson was keen to point out that both
roster agencies might be retained. But as the dust settles, there's
clearly no piece of the pie for the eight-year incumbent, Leagas
Delaney, whose international expansion had been bolstered by Adidas'
need for a presence in international markets. "Leagas has always
measured up," Simpson says.
"I boil it down to the fact that there were two good presentations, but
one seemed to be a more attractive network offering.
"The strength of TBWA is its cultural fit, youthfulness and emphasis on
creativity. It has excellent experience within our category." It
doubtless helped that McBride could bring to the negotiating table his
award-winning Nike experience from his time at W&K.
TBWA had the network capabilities - but it also teamed with a roster
agency that was clearly in the ascendancy on the business. "There was
always the intention for it to go 180's way," one close source says,
while another argues that Leagas Delaney simply failed to crack the
international side of the brief: "Leagas Delaney was probably too
UK-centric in its attitude. And they weren't letting DDB get involved
properly in the pitch. DDB was effectively taking dictation from
The real clincher in the pitch seems to have been TBWA's creative
stature in America, where Adidas is focusing more intently.
San Francisco's Leagas Delaney office doesn't appear to have delivered
what Simpson wanted. "The US is the biggest market for sporting goods
and the one where we still have the largest capacity for development,"
Simpson says, adding: "We didn't have an agency partner of the stature
our brand demands."
And the very best performance is imperative there, as competition in the
athletic footwear category is intense. While Adidas is number one in
terms of total sales of market share in Europe, in the US it is a long
way behind the market leader Nike. With about 11 per cent of the market,
Adidas trails in the wake of Nike's 40 per cent, but it is nothing if
not ambitious, with an aim to increase its market share to 20 per cent.
It'll be a hard task, especially considering the re-emergence of Reebok
and New Balance with a similar market share.
However, Simpson, who worked at Ogilvy & Mather and Bartle Bogle Hegarty
before moving to Coca-Cola in Atlanta and then on to Adidas, is
characteristically optimistic. "Things go in phases," he says. "We've
had a decade of the brand finding its feet again. These agency
arrangements are the next step toward maturity and the top league of