Associated Newspapers has handed the Evening Standard's advertising account to The Law Firm, along with a proposed ad budget of up to £10 million, as it fights to reverse the London title's declining circulation.
The appointment follows a series of benign talks with a range of advertising agencies. It is understood Veronica Wadley, the editor of the Evening Standard, first invited Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA\London to pitch for the account. Following presentations, Wadley reduced the list to Leo Burnett and TBWA\London.
However, the agencies discovered last week that their efforts had all been in vain when Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, overruled Wadley, saying the paid-for tabloid should join its sister paper, the Daily Mail, at The Law Firm.
The incumbent on the Evening Standard account is Farm Communications. The agency was not invited to re-pitch for the account.
A spokeswoman for the Evening Standard said: "After asking a number of agencies to pitch, it was felt that none of the suggested presentations quite hit the spot. The Law Firm was asked for its ideas and we felt they were better. It is as simple as that. There is no question of anyone overruling anybody."
In London, the media spend is said to be between £1 million and £2 million, while the nationwide budget is reported to be between £5 million and £10 million. The appointment comes as Associated Newspapers attempts to protect the Evening Standard from the onslaught of afternoon London freesheets.
In September, two new London newspapers were introduced to the market: Associated Newspapers' London Lite and News International's thelondonpaper.
London Lite's average circulation for September was 359,389 compared with thelondonpaper's 327,120, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations figures.
The battle for the eyeballs of the capital's commuters appears to have made a significant impact on the sales of the Evening Standard, which recorded a drop of 11.7 per cent year on year to 289,254.
In response, Associated Newspapers has repositioned the Evening Standard as a more upmarket paper, with an increase in its cover price from 40p to 50p.
The afternoon freesheets are the first serious challenge the paper has faced in more than a decade.
In 1987, the Evening Standard successfully resisted a major invasion of its turf, when Robert Maxwell squandered £40 million on the short-lived London Daily News.