A big question-mark hangs over the future of Safeway’s pounds 18
million account at Bates Dorland if the proposed merger of its Asda
rival with the Kingfisher group, a major Dorlands client, goes
Industry sources believe the pounds 17 billion deal makes the continued
co-existence of Safeway and Kingfisher within the same agency
’One or the other will have to go,’ an insider said.
Speculation is mounting that Kingfisher, which already has more than
pounds 40 million worth of Woolworths, B&Q and Superdrug business at
Dorlands, will force the agency to part company with Safeway.
The deal could also throw the consolidated media account into the
melting pot with sources indicating that a pitch is likely next
Carat, which handles Asda’s media, has no clients that would prevent it
pitching for the enlarged Kingfisher account. But Zenith, which has all
the Kingfisher business, also looks after Safeway.
Graham Hinton, Dorlands’ chairman, said this week that he had spoken to
senior executives of Safeway and Kingfisher and neither considered the
conflict issue a problem.
’We’re hugely sensitive to the issue and we’re not complacent,’ he
’But both clients say they are comfortable with the current
arrangements. However, we don’t know what degree of separation we will
have to deliver to ensure the complete confidentiality of the
That may prove difficult in the light of the planned cross-fertilisation
between Asda and Woolworths. The merger is expected to lead to Asda’s
George clothing range being available in Woolworths city-centre stores,
while Asda’s non-food offering is bolstered with merchandise supplied
Dorlands has long had to perform a balancing act between Safeway and
Woolworths, whose product offerings often overlap.
A Safeway spokesman said: ’We and Kingfisher have been clients of
Dorlands for a long time and there is no conflict of interest.’
It is possible that Dorlands could sacrifice Woolworths in order to
Kingfisher is unlikely to compensate the agency by giving it Asda, whose
chief executive, Allan Leighton, has a strong relationship with the
Publicis chairman, Rick Bendel.