Media Perspective: PHD can bring more than just price to the £25m Kraft account

It can be fun talking to media agencies in the aftermath of a big pitch.

It's a bit like when football clubs battle over star players during the transfer window: figures are bandied about, claim and counter-claim are made and then it's not entirely clear until about a year later who has got the best of the arrangement.

The latest big account transfer is the consolidation of the £50 million Kraft Foods UK account into PHD. A move that saw the agency add the £25 million Kraft media account, previously held by Starcom MediaVest, to its own £25 million Cadbury business.

No sooner had PHD landed the business than rumours of Portsmouth FC-style deals began to circulate. The Kraft business was made, in some versions of events, to resemble a desperate transfer window signing involving signing-on fees and over-the-top offers on savings combined with punitive compensation agreements should these targets not be met.

We've been here before, of course, but PHD sources vigorously deny that they have risked breaking the bank to win the Kraft business.

It will take time for the full truth of this to emerge. But given parent Omnicom Media Group's recent approach of investing in existing business with the likes of Cadbury rather than betting the farm on offering ridiculous terms in pitches such as COI or British Gas, it seems likely it has plenty of value to fund any cost efficiencies agreed with Kraft.

This aside, the agency does seem fortunate to have had the outgoing Cadbury marketing director, Phil Rumbol, apparently fighting its corner in the pitch, even though he won't be at the confectionery company for much longer.

Kraft's process, despite lasting only ten days, sounds exhausting and is thought to have involved several stages including the presentation from both agencies of their work from the past year, pitch meetings and the usual big negotiations on costs. The newly merged Kraft/Cadbury team will get its pound of flesh savings-wise and the decision is hard on Starcom, but it's also fair to say that PHD has produced some of its best work on Cadbury since winning the business (from Starcom) almost two years ago.

It's a positive that Kraft has bought into that but it will be tough for PHD to excel on the account in the absence of Rumbol's risk-taking presence and with far greater pressure on cost.

Yet the agency has a better chance than most of pulling this off. While it's a coincidence that PHD chose the week of the Kraft win to announce that its content arm, Drum PHD, is launching in the US, Drum's heavy input into the Cadbury account demonstrates that PHD's role often goes well beyond the buying spreadsheets.