General Motors adds its name to a long list of clients whose
increasingly regional operational structure becomes a threat to a major
UK account once deemed impregnable (Campaign, last week).
One might have said that, for the umpteenth time over the past five
years, an advertising alignment is under consideration that is
relatively little to do with work, but in this case there is clearly a
problem between client and agency that has prevented Lowe Howard-Spink’s
recent output for Vauxhall reaching its former heights.
Not that quality of work is any defence these days. Look at Ogilvy &
Mather, whose extraordinary improvement in the standard of its Ford
advertising (egged on by a challenging local client) has been rewarded
with the loss of brands to Young & Rubicam. The latter agency, it should
be pointed out, has done an equally fine job in creating pan-European
work of distinction.
In car marketing, we see the dilemmas of the wider industry writ large.
Fiat launches its cars on a pan-European basis using some naff work from
Italy, then lets DMB&B London take up the mantle.
The result is charming, underrated advertising for the Coupe and the
But Fiat’s pan-European-ness cost Leo Burnett its prized UK Mercedes
account - because of ’a potential conflict somewhere in Europe down the
Mercedes chooses to put its eggs in a domestic basket. Partners BDDH is
the lucky recipient, but for how long? Barker & Ralston’s loss of the
Saab account highlights just how at the mercy of pan-Europeanisation
smaller agencies are. That’s why (other than money) Paul Simons and
Rupert Howell will forge their deals. It was ever thus, although, in the
past, you only had to ask yourself if you would, or could, handle larger
No agency with ambition can afford to ignore the Europe factor, the only
solace being found in another old advertising adage: clients get the
work, and agencies get the clients, they deserve.