Lloyds sets stage for £18m ad pitch

LONDON - Saatchi & Saatchi's hold on its £18m Lloyds TSB account has come under serious threat with news that the banking giant has initiated talks with agencies about a review of the business.

Lloyds is said to have drafted a brief with a view to calling a pitch for its above-the-line account during the next few months. The bank has already received credentials from a number of London-based shops.

A spokeswoman for the bank did not deny a review. "We have not briefed any other agencies to pitch for the advertising, although our agencies are constantly under review," she said.

The talks come as Lloyds grapples with a falling market share. Its share of UK current accounts fell from 26.1 per cent in 1999 to 24.6 per cent this summer, under pressure from its traditional high-street rivals and converted building societies, as well as from internet brands such as Egg.

Saatchis picked up the Lloyds business in September 1998 after it ousted DMB&B from lead status on the account. The two agencies had split the business after Lloyds' 15-year incumbent, Lowe Howard-Spink, pulled out of a 1997 pitch for the newly merged account.

However, Saatchis' hold on the Lloyds account is believed to have been weakened by the imminent departure of Tamara Ingram, the agency's executive chairman, to McCann-Erickson. Ingram, who resigned from Saatchis last month, played a major role in securing the business after meeting Lloyds' director of group marketing, Ford Ennals, at the annual Marketing Forum. She had remained extremely close to the account after becoming the chief executive of the agency in 1995.

McCann's contract with the pensions and insurance giant, CGNU, is likely to prevent Ingram's new agency from competing for the business.

There are signs that Lloyds has struggled to adapt its business to the demands of the digital economy over the past two years. Last December the bank was forced to shelve plans to launch its online brand Evolvebank in the UK, costing Saatchis and Interfocus an estimated £25 million in potential billings.

A campaign launched through Saatchis this year, featuring celebrities such as Shaznay Lewis, Cat Deeley and Leslie Phillips discussing what moments they would bank, has failed to win over a significant amount of current account holders.

It is not known if the review will affect media, which is currently held by Saatchis' sister agency, Zenith Media.

Lloyds shook up its direct marketing arrangements this summer, with Partners Andrews Aldridge taking a place on the roster with WWAV Rapp Collins and Interfocus.

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