NEWS: WH Smith and BBH row provokes split

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.

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

potential.’



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.