MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Sad but true, price is the major factor in winning pitches

The award of the pounds 9 million Thomson Holidays media account (Campaign, last week) turned out to be a messy business from which none of the participants emerged with much dignity.

The award of the pounds 9 million Thomson Holidays media account

(Campaign, last week) turned out to be a messy business from which none

of the participants emerged with much dignity.

On the surface, it seemed quite a simple affair. The account had

previously been handled by BMP DDB on a full-service basis, with BMP

Optimum responsible for media planning and buying. BMP Optimum was doing

a pretty fine job on the business, but when the creative account moved

to HHCL & Partners, the client wanted to see if he could save some money

on his media.

Like many a client before him, Mr Thomson (Shaun Powell) was looking for

cost efficiencies on his media and the agencies that pitched for the

account were under no illusions about the basis of the review. MindShare

and MediaVest were clear about the parameters, while BMP Optimum insists

that it declined to match the low remuneration level Thomson was


Depending on who you speak to, MindShare won the business last week

because it offered cut-throat commission levels, unsustainable discounts

off TV prices or a more cost-effective media solution by combining great

strategic planning with competitive (but not bottom dollar) remuneration

and aggressive TV buying. This latter option is the way the client sees

it, but this didn’t stop the sniping when the pitch was dissected. The

implication is that MindShare dropped its pants to win the business.

If MindShare ’bought’ the Thomson business, you can see why it could

make commercial sense: a few new- business wins will give momentum and

generate some ra-ra PR. And could anyone really argue that MindShare

won’t do a pretty good job for Thomson anyway?

At least Thomson made it clear that this was a pitch primarily about

price. There can be nothing worse than going through a pitch with bells

and whistles polished only to lose because the client is seduced by an

agency which knocked half a per cent off its commission.

It would, of course, be rather nice to think that media companies had

reached the stage where sensible remuneration levels were a given and

that agencies didn’t cut their own and each others’ throats to win

business. Nice but naive, at least for the time being.

It is a brave agency which draws a line in the sand and refuses to

compromise for the sake of retaining and winning accounts at a desirable

level of remuneration. As long as grown-up media companies are prepared

to slash prices to win business, clients will take advantage and if the

agency can still make money on the account (without making its other

clients suffer in the process) who can blame either of them?

The comforting thought is that those agencies which do take a stand -

and have the credentials to deliver the top-flight service that

justifies it - could find themselves in a more mature business

partnership with their clients, as well as a more lucrative one.

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