I could never resist a wry smile at the picture on the wall behind
Michael Bungey’s desk in the Bates Worldwide chairman’s Paddington
It shows a man painting a floor, unaware that he is backing himself into
a corner with no visible means of exit.
The painting seemed an apt analogy for all Bates’ self-inflicted
But it’s an even better metaphor for the right old pickle in which the
Halifax, one of Bates UK’s biggest clients, has landed itself over the
review of its pounds 28 million account.
Certainly, the shortlist drawn up by Britain’s largest mortgage lender
has a boxed-in look to it, indicative of a job begun in haste and with
insufficient thought about whether it can be completed without messy
It’s not a state secret that the Halifax, having embarked on a review,
has found its options strictly limited. So much so that its
intermediaries are known to have trawled several major agencies in the
forlorn hope that they would be prepared to dump directly competitive
accounts in order to pitch for its business.
Not surprisingly, no approach got past the preliminary conversation
stage, agency executives taking the view that a bird in the hand is
better than a bigger one in the bush that may defy capture.
The resulting shortlist seems only to emphasise the desperation. Delaney
Lund Knox Warren has a long-standing relationship with the Halifax but
whether it has the resource to handle such a labour-intensive account is
an open question. And you wonder if the troubled FCA! makes the cut only
because its Publicis affiliate numbers the Woolwich among its
Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R would have to balance the Halifax with
Citibank and Virgin. Meanwhile, Ogilvy & Mather must pitch in the
knowledge that the increased overlapping of financial products means its
internationally aligned American Express client will not be as relaxed
about sharing an agency with the Halifax as it was when O&M handled the
If all this bothers the Halifax, the bank wraps it up in a seeming
cavalier lack of concern. ’Any issues of customer conflict will be a
matter for discussion once a decision has been made,’ a spokesman
declares. A more classic example of carts being put before horses would
be hard to find.
What is it about financial institutions such as the Halifax and the
Nationwide, which blames ’creative differences’ for its split with
Bartle Bogle Hegarty, that their sureness of touch in running a
successful business is far less assured when it comes to
Talk to senior agency managers with experience of running the Nationwide
account and a pattern emerges - creative work used to define the brief
rather than the other way round; agencies ground down by putting
considerable resource into large amounts of work that never ran.
If neither puts down their brush and considers their escape route, their
corner will become very crowded indeed.