Even I’ve chewed my fingernails to the knuckles over this one. The
pounds 80 million Volkswagen UK media pitch has been agonising, taking
over six months from the starting gun to the decision last week.
After the pitch itself, there came weeks and weeks of wild speculation
as each of the pitching agencies - New PHD, MediaCom TMB and the
incumbent, BBJ - in turn was said to have won the business. Hopes will
inevitably have risen only to be dashed when the next report attributed
glory to another agency.
The prevailing rumour was that the clients themselves were divided. Last
year BBJ’s parent, Carat, lost the Volkswagen business in Germany to
MediaCom and the Germans are said to have favoured the appointment of
MediaCom in the UK. The local UK clients, however, were rumoured to have
supported BBJ. Hence, supposedly, the impasse.
I can only imagine the downcast mood at BBJ as the decision process was
drawn out - having to work on the account in the intervening months must
have been tough.
MediaCom TMB, meanwhile, was left contemplating the fact that even if it
won the business (which it has) observers would assume it was because of
a European diktat and not a genuine mark of the agency’s successful
launch. New PHD was simply left in a vacuum.
The whole affair leaves a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth. Sure, few
agencies would baulk at a bit of discomfort for the opportunity to
snaffle an pounds 80 million account. But the fact remains that the
process has left all of the agencies somewhat battered and bruised.
If BBJ’s claim that the decision was made in Germany is true, why bother
putting everyone through the charade? If not, then why not have handed
MediaCom the business earlier and allowed it to enjoy its victory?
Of course, rewind a couple of years and you’ll remember that Volkswagen
gave its UK business to BBJ as part of a European alignment into
The local clients were said to have wanted to keep their existing media
agencies but were forced to hand the centralised account to BBJ
virtually on a plate. When you win the business on such grounds you
can’t be too surprised when you lose it on similar terms.
The win leaves BBJ bereft of around a third of its billings and with
some real business issues to face, but it also leaves the media industry
with some issues of its own. The sad fact is that there still isn’t a
sufficiently robust code of practice for media reviews to ensure that
they are at least conducted in a professional and painless-as-possible
manner. Most media agencies work to incredibly high standards, invest in
expensive technologies, people and systems to ensure their clients get
the best possible service and do so for ridiculously low remuneration.
All three agencies involved in this pitch will have given it their all.
They deserve better treatment.