If any further evidence was needed that the sharks are circling WPP, it comes from the extraordinary coverage in the national and international press that the company, through Mindshare, has lost the HSBC media account to Omnicom rival to PHD.
Such stories are, of course, the bread and butter of us trade titles, but the fact that the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and The Times all devoted space in their business pages to the news shows they smell blood – or are being led to it. Incidentally some also showed a charming lack of understanding that media billings do not equate to income.
No matter. The spotlight is on WPP – you can expect that every similar account review or loss (and let’s face it these happen on an almost daily basis across the world – albeit not often to this scale) will be followed up with similar scrutiny by City hacks to see if the departure of Sir Martin Sorrell has struck a fatal blow to an already wounded business.
The loss is undoubtedly a blow for Mindshare, not least in prestige, and comes as WPP is also facing reviews on its Shell and Ford business. It will also prove a massive shot in the arm to PHD, whose network would once – and in recent memory – never have been a likely contender to service such a big global account.
It also softens the blow of losing its global Unilever comms planning business to Mindshare at the end of last year (you probably won’t find that written in the national press). So hats off to its global chief executive Mike Cooper for the transformation he has delivered.
According to Leanne Cutts, HSBC’s group head of marketing, PHD demonstrated "strong strategic skills and advanced digital transformation capabilities" although whether this alone was enough to differentiate it from Mindshare, who knows?
For WPP they’ll have to ride out such similar stories as they arise – and I’m sure that there will be some wins along the way too. But then losses that might suggest Sorrell’s departure is negative for the group appear to play well to the narrative of one person in particular - someone who has plentiful contacts in the City and has promised to be back in the industry soon.
Jeremy Lee is contributing editor at Campaign