Bartle Bogle Hegarty has lost its pounds 11 million W. H. Smith business
less than a year after a drastic rethink of how the agency ran the
account following its sacking in December 1994 and its subsequent
reappointment last March.
Neither W. H. Smith nor BBH would comment at length on the split.
Instead, each side issued a terse statement suggesting that the troubled
relationship had gone from difficult to untenable.
A BBH spokesperson said: ‘We have tabled a new solution to the W. H.
Smith brief. We believe it is outstanding. W. H. Smith do not agree. We
therefore believe it is inappropriate for us to continue.’
Meanwhile, a W. H. Smith spokesperson countered with the statement: ‘We
have identified exciting development opportunities for our brand and we
need to be certain we have advertising that fully exploits the
The account is going into review with a creative pitch imminent. Media
is not affected and stays with BBH’s media affiliate, Motive.
BBH originally won the account in November 1991 from D’Arcy Masius
Benton and Bowles, which had handled the retail giant’s business for
more than 20 years.
BBH’s first work in 1992 marked the start of the controversial ‘we don’t
sell...’ press and poster campaign. The aggressive strategy was axed a
year later and replaced by the gentler line, ‘There’s more to life with
W. H. Smith’, which used all media.
W. H. Smith’s profits have been eroded by rivals and from business
overlaps within its group. City analysts blasted the group last summer
for neglecting the core 450-store stationery chain, while allowing it to
be further damaged by the success of other group companies such as
Virgin/ Our Price and Waterstone’s, which rival its product base.
Meanwhile, W. H. Smith’s marketing department has been weakened by
frequent top-level changes. In July 1994, Dean Cowley, general manager
for marketing, was forced out, while marketing was divided into products
and brands. His replacement, Esther Horwood, left at the start of 1995.
Don Sloan, the former Woolworths marketing director, was appointed head
of brand marketing in March last year.