Perspective - The £75m questions raised by WCRS'sSky coup

I've never subscribed to the view that when an agency wins business from a marketing director who's a mate (of the agency, of its CEO, of its creative director), it doesn't really "count" as a fair win, merely a shoe-in.

After all, what better reason for picking an agency than the fact that the client knows its top people and their style well enough to trust them with his precious ad account. Surely this personal knowledge has to be more reliable than appointing an agency based on the artificial measures of the formal pitch process.

So when it was widely assumed that Grey was the frontrunner for the £75 million Sky account because of Sir Martin Sorrell's relationship with the Murdochs - well, fair enough. If I was Sorrell, I'd make sure I looked after a client like Murdoch. And if I was Murdoch (senior or junior), I'd probably trust Sorrell to ensure his people delivered a good service.

So what should we make of the fact that WPP appears to have dropped the Sky ball, right into the lap of the WCRS underdog?

Perhaps Sky's shaky relationship with United over the past few months has shaken its faith in Sorrell's people and the quality of their delivery.

Perhaps James Murdoch put his personal preferences aside in order to allow his team enough head to make their own independent choice. Perhaps Grey had the business on a plate and then simply cocked it up when it came to the pitch itself. Perhaps WCRS simply blew Sky away on the day.

For everyone's sake, I hope that it was the latter. It would be unlike Sorrell to let such an important relationship slip, and I wouldn't like to be the Grey management team explaining themselves to Sorrell if they had simply thrown away a gifted piece of business.

But for WCRS, Sky seems to be the perfect culmination of a year of rejuvenation (both within the new Engine set-up and as a standalone creative agency). And it's a real seal of approval for Debbie Klein's first full year as CEO. The level of shock at WCRS when they heard the news of the win is really quite telling; they clearly gave Sky their best shot, but were hardly expecting to win. Engine's Peter Scott and Robin Wight have charm and swagger in equal measure, but the prevailing mood at the creative agency under Klein's tenure is down-to-earth, hard-working, modest even. Perhaps Sky simply preferred the WCRS team of people.

Two questions remain. Grey needs a great win; Sky looked like its best chance for a long time. What soul-searching will result from this failure? And should WCRS really be putting out the flags? Sky is a notoriously difficult and demanding client and no agency has ever managed to do showcase creative work for them. WCRS needs more opportunities to do showcase creative work, and after having anyway a successful new-business year (£60 million in new business already, before Sky) could do with some time to catch its breath and concentrate on its creative product; Sky will ensure this doesn't happen for quite some time yet.

Michael Grade has always been a successful figure in adland. A shrewd businessman, sincere believer in programme quality and, crucially, a supreme raconteur, he brings enormous colour and personality to an ITV that has seemed (unforgivably for a supposedly creative company) monolithically bland.

If there is any criticism to make in his appointment as executive chairman, though, it's surely that he is so very much part of the old TV world order at a time when all media is being turned on its head. It's a criticism that the appointment of a younger, complementary CEO could easily answer. The fact that Grade is delaying such an appointment for another two years could prove to be his first mistake.

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