OPINION: New business can leave existing clients unloved

What could have prompted the withering put-down of Ogilvy & Mather by its erstwhile client, Bupa Healthcare, which said it wanted to find a new agency ’whereby we are an important client to them’? This, after all, is from an advertiser with a pounds 4.7 million annual above-the- line spend. Far from feeling unloved, you might have thought it was being overwhelmed with affection.

What could have prompted the withering put-down of Ogilvy & Mather

by its erstwhile client, Bupa Healthcare, which said it wanted to find a

new agency ’whereby we are an important client to them’? This, after

all, is from an advertiser with a pounds 4.7 million annual above-the-

line spend. Far from feeling unloved, you might have thought it was

being overwhelmed with affection.



Whatever Bupa’s reasons for flying the O&M coop to find a smaller

nesting place, its parting shot highlights the perpetual problem for

agencies of ensuring that every client feels cherished irrespective of

its size. It’s a tricky thing to manage, particularly as agencies grow

and big accounts arrive which threaten to dominate their portfolios and

change their structures and cultures.



Small wonder that existing clients worry about being shoved aside and no

longer having the agency’s top talent on their business. When Abbott

Mead Vickers BBDO won its first massive chunk of BT business, David

Abbott got a letter from Sainsbury’s. Congratulations, it said, before

going on to inquire if Abbott would continue writing its ads.



Similarly, some WCRS clients will probably need some extra hand-holding

after the agency scooped the pounds 20 million National Lottery

business.



This is not to suggest that the onus rests entirely with agencies. While

it’s important for them to spread their best people across a broad range

of accounts, clients must realise that access to the agency’s top brains

comes with a price tag.



But it isn’t just about money. Clients who claim to have been unloved by

their agencies often haven’t played their part in establishing a

fruitful, two-way relationship. No client will get the best work out of

an agency whose respect it does not command.



In the end, though, agencies are like good restaurants. The food may be

mouth-watering but it’s the items not on the menu, like consistent and

attentive service, that keep the customers wanting more.