The fact that New Commercial Arts was going to pick up the Halifax account wasn’t exactly the biggest surprise, given that the relationship between Halifax owner Lloyds Banking Group and two of the agency’s key principals – David Golding and James Murphy – goes back to the start of this millennium.
But that it was the new agency’s first win, and came straight from their old agency Adam & Eve/DDB without the latter having much idea of a review, is perhaps rather more surprising.
Rumours that Lloyds Banking Group was looking at reviewing its ad account (either in whole or in part) started to swirl around in March, just ahead of the official launch of NCA in mid-May. Immediately, the likely destination was Murphy and Golding’s at-that-point-unnamed start-up, given that they had won it at A&E/DDB and had also worked on it at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R and so have history.
Campaign understands that at this time the brand had reassured A&E/DDB that no element of the ad account for any of Lloyds Banking Group (including Halifax) was under review. Instead, it had issued a brief for "support" in the customer experience space for Halifax. This customer experience brief seems to have evolved rather swiftly into the full-blown comms account that must have come as a surprise to the incumbent agency but proved excellent timing for NCA, whose members also included customer experience expert Rob Curran.
So what really happened? Was NCA quietly keeping its powder dry and operating in the background until it could officially take on the whole business, free from the restrictions of Murphy and Golding’s non-compete, as some would have you believe? Or did the remit evolve as Catherine Kehoe took on a new chief customer officer role at Lloyds Banking Group that unified customer experience and brand, as others say?
Well, that depends on who you believe. But the win is a hefty one for NCA and a kick in the teeth for A&E/DDB, which did not know anything about the move and was not invited to repitch. It is understood that it has been thrown a sizeable bone/cold comfort (delete as applicable) in the form of assurances that the rest of the Lloyds Banking Group business it handles is safe – for the time being.
While A&E/DDB was NCA’s first target, other agencies that haven’t married up a convincing story between brand comms and customer experience to their clients might also be in the crosshairs, as this is clearly NCA’s schtick.
Jeremy Lee is consulting editor at Campaign