CLOSE-UP: Newsmaker/Neil Simpson - Adidas marketer hands 180 and TBWA £70m prize. Neil Simpson was looking for an agency with global backing, Jenny Watts says

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

the future.

"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

TBWA network.

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

global brands."


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