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.