Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper’s decision to fire Guinness over what it claims is
the company’s unprincipled behaviour exposes the reality behind much
fine talk about a new rapprochement between agencies and clients.
Many platitudes have been uttered about how many issues unite rather
than divide the two sides, how the ‘master-servant’ relationship is at
an end and how marketing directors have no right to indulge in virility
displays at the expense of agencies.
While this sounds grand in the afterglow of a good lunch at an all-day
seminar, the new glasnost seems a fragile plant when exposed to the real
world outside. The fact is that agencies are just as vulnerable to the
politics within client companies as ever, and they always will be.
Whether or not Guinness has acted entirely ethically in its dealings
with a roster agency is a matter for the company and its collective
conscience. But the fact that a respected top 20 agency believes it
hasn’t, is worrying.
Guinness is no run-of-the-mill advertiser, but one that has encouraged
innovative work stretching back to the pre-war years. Clients that treat
agencies like doormats quickly get a reputation. Guinness has none.
All of which makes this story even more curious. Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper
has a proven record on Guinness business and was narrowly pipped for the
Guinness Draught Bitter account just six months ago. In Mark Wnek, its
executive creative director, the agency has the driving force behind
some of the most famous Guinness campaigns. Reason enough, you might
think, for keeping faith in the agency’s ability to carry through
successfully the pounds 5 million launch of Kilkenny beer and not brief
another roster shop to shadow it.
Perhaps we can conclude that Euro RSCG’s self-confidence in this matter
is as much to do with business ethics as it is to do with having another
brewer’s budget within its grasp.