EDITORIAL: Mother win shows meritocracy rules

A new year and still Britain's ad industry struggles to understand the implications of last year's most astonishing pitch result - the decision by Boots to put its £90 million integrated account into a consortium led by Mother. Not since Ian Botham clouted Australia all over Headingley in 1981 to turn England's humiliation into victory can there have been a win so emphatically against the odds.

Mother's triumph will certainly have ambitious mid-sized independent agencies cheering from the boundary. The big battalions headed by J. Walter Thompson, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Publicis have been routed. No longer are such huge accounts theirs by divine right. No longer can they rely on resource alone to win the day. Mother has not only convinced Boots it can provide all the necessary back-up, but real excitement too.

What remains to be seen is if other big traditional advertisers will overcome their reluctance to work with a loosely aligned group of specialist agencies or continue to cling to the comfort blankets offered by the big groups.

For Mother, the win marks the completion of a significant rite of passage.

It cannot continue being famous for holding staff meetings in a caravan when massive names such as Boots and Orange adorn its client list and it adjusts to the relentless demands of retail advertising.

One big lesson to be learned from the Boots decision is that adland's traditional powerhouses ignore the threat of the newcomers at their peril.

British Gas, now at Clemmow Hornby Inge, and Halifax at Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners are both testament to the potential threat. What's more, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing the up-and-coming shops simply don't know how to assimilate such giant pieces of business. The wealth of big agency experience possessed collectively by their senior managers belie that theory.

Of course, it's important to keep the Boots pitch in perspective. Just as the company's earlier all-embracing deal with WPP didn't mark the end of new business as we know it, neither does its latest move necessarily herald a trend. What it does indicate is the evolvement of a true meritocracy in the ad business. Today, agencies presenting the right strategic and creative answers can land the big fish, whatever their size. The best are winning and, in an industry that depends on the potency of its ideas for its very existence, that has to be a good thing.