Marks & Spencer is to centralise its creative and media advertising accounts as it moves to turn around flagging sales and a poor stock market performance.
The retailing giant currently uses BMP4 on a contract basis, while Bartle Bogle Hegarty developed the company's Christmas food campaign. The media account is currently handled by BMP OMD and Optimedia, which does the food advertising.
M&S has drawn up a longlist of agencies to pitch for the centralised creative account. BBH and BMP have already been approached and another three agencies are thought to be on the retailer's hitlist. JWT, whose client list lacks a supermarket, is expected to be included on the list. A decision is expected by June.
The budget is undisclosed, but last year James Benfield, who was marketing director at the time, said he was planning to double advertising spend to £20 million.
The decision to centralise comes from the company's new marketing director, Alan McWalter, who was brought in last September from Woolworths. Under him the marketing structure at M&S has been consolidated into one group, with the aim of achieving a more consistent approach to marketing.
In a separate move, M&S Ventures saw pitches before Christmas for a new media project. The company is understood to have asked HHCL & Partners, J Walter Thompson and Bartle Bogle Hegarty to pitch.
Until recently advertising has not been high on M&S's agenda and the company has favoured tactical promotions over brand work. There has been intermittent work, mainly press and poster, by BMP4, and McCann-Erickson has developed food campaigns.
But last summer M&S hired BBH to develop its Christmas food campaign as it attempted to turn around its recent lacklustre image by promoting food, a highly-regarded aspect of its business.
The company is now vulnerable to bid speculations with names such as Tesco in the frame. Christmas trading in its clothing department was poor, falling by almost eight per cent.