Opinion: Perspective - Doing the best work is no longer good enough

It makes you wonder, doesn't it. The Sony Europe review. What does an agency have to do to keep a client satisfied these days?

Producing arguably the ad industry's best body of creative work over the past few years and driving sales of your client's products are clearly no guarantee of a secure relationship (though having terrific results against both these criteria does give Fallon a strong hand as it goes into battle to retain the Sony business).

Sony says it's "extremely pleased" with "the work that Fallon has done on our behalf", which is a slightly odd and distant way to talk about your agency partner who created "balls", "paint" and "Play-doh".

So Sony's extremely pleased. But that's not enough. Ben Moore, the vice-president of communications for Sony Europe, says: "The marketing landscape has changed significantly, with the fragmentation of traditional media and the rise and increasing importance of the internet and social media in driving consumer behaviour."

Which sounds like it's come straight from a marketing textbook. And the obvious conclusion to draw from Moore's words is that Fallon hasn't kept pace. Except that from the award-winning walkmanproject.com through the online film and photo galleries that accompanied "foam city" to the experiential dimension of "zoetrope", the TV work has been nicely amplified through other media channels, though I hear that Sony has been less than visionary when it comes to embracing participative communications.

Then Moore adds: "Taken together with the increasingly challenging economic climate, in which all companies are seeking to ensure the best possible value and impact for their marketing spend, we felt that now was an appropriate time to take stock and review our agency partnerships."

So there you have it. Yes, Fallon has given Sony fame and effective ideas with long-term brand impact and ads that adland loves and ads that consumers like. But Sony is under huge pressure, sales are down and the local market business units are said to be looking for more control over marketing.

And when clients are desperate, they do desperate things. Like call creative reviews and destabilise good agency relationships and ask for lower fees and more work. Sometimes they get those things, for a while. And what better way for Moore to be seen to be doing something than calling a statutory advertising review.

Now, maybe there are problems with the Fallon/Sony relationship that I can't see. And, sadly, it's true that a six-year agency/client relationship is pretty good going these days.

But the crude way Sony already seems to be approaching this pitch is a sorry reflection of how even the best agencies are viewed by the clients for whom they do fantastic work.

Guy Hayward's appointment as the new chief executive at JWT hasn't got off to the best of starts. Still under contract to Omnicom/180, he's been forbidden to speak out about his new role and has gone underground until the end of September at the earliest.

Still, there are clearly plenty of fans out there ready to speak up on his behalf and it seems as though JWT might have made a sound choice. Finding Hayward, though, is just the beginning of the beginning of what needs to be done if JWT is to find new life in London.

For the agency's sake, let's hope Hayward has a big personality that will lend some character to JWT here and create a culture that gives it a real point of difference in the market. Then let's hope he's given enough autonomy to make the changes necessary to attract local clients and give the agency some local self-respect.

With sister agency Ogilvy facing similar challenges it's going to be interesting to see which of the WPP shops can pull off real renaissance.

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