OPINION: EDGE ON ... THE HOLSTEN REVIEW

When Holsten UK called its ad agency review in February, it was received in two ways. Some people thought that since Holsten had been with GGT (thereafter TBWA Simons Palmer) for 22 years, it was probably time for a change. Others were surprised that one of the longest client/agency relationships was being rocked.

When Holsten UK called its ad agency review in February, it was

received in two ways. Some people thought that since Holsten had been

with GGT (thereafter TBWA Simons Palmer) for 22 years, it was probably

time for a change. Others were surprised that one of the longest

client/agency relationships was being rocked.



Holsten called the review with the single-minded objective of ensuring

that it held on to the best partner (we treat agencies as an extension

of the brand team rather than suppliers) with whom to continue building

the long-term equity of Holsten brands.



A brief was written, which was circulated and signed off by all those

who would be involved in the decision-making process. Clear,

quantifiable evaluation criteria were set at the start of the process,

as was a week-by-week time plan. All were essential for ensuring the

sensitive management of the agencies involved and, as we moved through

the process, sound decision-making by the Holsten team.



We made it clear at the start that we didn’t just want to see ads that

would win the pitch. We split the pitch into strategic presentations

and, three weeks later, the creative presentations. We were looking for

sustainable ideas that could run through the line. To make sure this

happened we asked the agencies to ensure that the creative idea could

work just as well on a beer mat or a supermarket shelf talker as it

could in a TV ad. This was one of our key evaluation criteria and it

helped us decide how big each creative idea was to be.



For an incumbent agency, its key strength is also its potential Achilles

heel: is experience stronger than the baggage of the past or is the

baggage leverageable experience?



The key thing we did was try to keep everyone, including the incumbent,

on a level playing field by having the same number of meetings with each

agency during the pitch process. When we moved to consumer research,

each agency was allowed to showcase its idea in the way it felt gave it

the best chance - via an independent research agency that two out of the

three had recommended.



No agency was allowed to attend the consumer groups, for obvious

reasons.



I believe that too many marketers call reviews of agencies because they

want to make their mark and don’t try to work things out. If you are in

a relationship, you don’t dump your partner just because you can’t agree

on whether to go for a curry or a Chinese. Throughout the pitch process

we kept reviewing what was important to Holsten and who was fulfilling

it. The key was to remain as objective as possible and not let emotions

cloud the issues.



At the end of the process, TBWA retained the business, which, for many,

was a surprise. However, we have come out the other side stronger than

when we went in. The agency has made some changes to its team to ensure

renewed vitality and Holsten is now 100 per cent committed to them. We

are all a little wiser, a little sharper and a lot more focused than we

were four months ago at the beginning of the review.



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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