Editorial: Tough times, but AMV is still an ad industry totem

Last week's Campaign front page will have been uncomfortable reading for Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. Pizza Hut is reviewing its £11 creative account and the agency also faces the prospect of a fight to retain £40 million of BT business as the telecoms giant considers consolidation.

Add to this Homebase's £28 million review and rumours of beleaguered Sainsbury's considering its advertising future and the scale of the challenge facing the agency's restructured management team becomes clear.

What is increasingly obvious is that the immediate future will be a defining period for Britain's largest agency; a time when it needs to make up its mind about whether it wants to regain its place as the industry's creative standard bearer or become a business where profitability is the prime target. Or, indeed, whether the two are jointly attainable.

For too long now, the lack of sparkle in AMV's creative product seems to have been the outward manifestation of a number of internal problems.

Not all of these are in AMV's power to resolve. To sustain AMV's place at the top of the UK rankings, the agency is dependent on a regular influx of globally aligned business from BBDO. But BBDO's track record over the past few years has been less than impressive. True, the network has benefited from international realignments from Mars and PepsiCo. But straight wins on new global accounts have proved elusive.

The New-Business Performance League gives another clue to AMV's ailment and that's the dominance of the independent, local agencies. Clemmow Hornby Inge, WCRS, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, VCCP and St Luke's are all in the top ten; something they've achieved to the cost of the multinationals such as BBDO.

But it would be foolish to write off AMV's prospects of triumphing in any BT winner-takes-all contest. In Farah Ramzan Golant, the agency has a new chief executive less wedded to the old AMV way. And in Andrew Robertson, BBDO's worldwide chief executive, she has a kindred spirit. With Cilla Snowball ensuring a steady tiller as chairman and with one of the most respected agency cultures, AMV remains a totem for the industry. Few would not wish them well. The UK ad industry would be a poorer place were AMV not a significant power within it.

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