EDITORIAL: As pressures rise, respect is at stake

Compiling the "Ten most contentious pitches of 2001" list for

Campaign's forthcoming Book of Lists has proved to be a rather

depressing task. It involves revisiting a litany of examples of clients

treating their current or potential agencies badly. Even with a

forgiving eye, the recent Transport for London congestion charges pitch

will feature prominently.

In fact, it is with escalating frequency that agency staff are mourning

the apparent lack of respect for agencies that appears to underscore

their treatment in pitches. The issue is inextricably linked to an

overall loss of trust between the two sides. As clients have come under

greater pressure, some have begun to doubt agencies' ability to act as

an impartial guide through the fragmented media landscape.

So it is refreshing to read the second in Campaign's series of profiles

of prominent clients in this week's issue. Ian McAllister, the managing

director and chairman of Ford UK, talks about his treatment, and

opinion, of advertising agencies. And a healthy opinion it is.

The man at the helm of Ford UK's $120 million budget so believes

in advertising that he has upped Ford's above-the-line spend by almost

$20 million over the past two years. He thinks ad agencies are

Ford's only true source for garnering consumer insight.

There is a lesson to be had from such support. It is the advertisers

such as Ford, big and perhaps a little drab, that really stand by their

agencies. They have the resources to weather a downturn and a tendency

to respect long-term relationships Ford first linked with Ogilvy &

Mather in the mid-70s, while Sainsbury's, whose deputy managing

director, Sara Weller, was profiled last week, has been with Abbott Mead

Vickers since 1979.

Agencies have been guilty of chasing bijoux accounts for their awards

potential since agency life began. And we all know that this can result

in the big, stable advertisers being ignored or taken for granted. Never

have agencies been more guilty of this than in 1999 and 2000, when they

lost their heads chasing the dotcom riches.

So if there is a fair complaint that clients have been treating agencies

badly, there is probably also an argument that agencies have been

treating clients with less than a full quota of respect.


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