Between the Lines: Is United's time running out?

How times have changed for BSkyB. Not so long ago, it was the kind of client that agencies loved and loathed in equal measure. While its massive adspend made it a valuable addition to any agency's account list, its thorny nature, propensity to pitch and long lists of demands always made it a difficult account to handle.

Yet under the chief executive, James Murdoch, who enjoys a close relationship with WPP, its legendarily tough marketing department appears emasculated. It's hard to imagine a pre-Murdoch Sky agreeing to an engineered WPP solution to the question of its ad account that appears - on the face of it at least - to benefit Sir Martin Sorrell first and foremost.

The "team Sky" solution (page 2), if it plays out, still leaves WPP with the tricky question of what to do with United London. The joint managing partners Jim Kelly and Robert Campbell are keen to keep running with the baton they picked up this year and turn the agency into the start-up they crave. That will take time, and Sorrell is not known for his patience with under-performing companies.


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