DIARY: Nestle's new-business tout is bit of a mystery

Strange goings on in Manchester. A mystery woman has been phoning agency chiefs, getting them salivating at the prospect of a big account walking through their door, and then disappearing.

The woman, usually calling herself Louise Smith or Louise Jones, purports to be calling on behalf of the marketing director at Rowntree in York. She has good news. Rowntree is not happy with McCann-Erickson in Manchester and the company is looking to move the business into their agency. She leaves a main switchboard number and asks her victim to call back later in the day for what promises to be a rewarding conversation.

The sharpest tools in the box will have picked up a couple of flaws in this tale. For one thing, Rowntree is now Nestle Rowntree. For another, the company doesn't have any confectionery assignments at McCann in Manchester.

However, that hasn't stopped some Mancunian design companies and agencies from ringing Nestle Rowntree in the hope of being given some nice big sweeties.

Michael Barrington, the chairman of Barrington Johnson Lorains, fell for the con. "It isn't that we expected to get the whole business but we do packaging and point-of-sale work for a number of major companies so her story was quite plausible," he says.

For its part, Nestle Rowntree is getting pretty pissed off with the mysterious Louise, whose activities started about a month ago. "We've warned our switchboard and alerted security but there's not much more we can do," Louise (the genuine article) Jennings, the PA to Nestle Rowntree's marketing director, Andrew Harrison, says. "Agencies getting calls from 'Louise', be assured it isn't me."

What's puzzling everybody is what Alias Smith and Jones is gaining from all this. Is she a former employee with a grudge? Or did she have a nasty experience with a Kit Kat past its sell-by date?