PERSPECTIVE: Lowe might think the loss mysterious, but UDV had its reasons

What a magnificent win UDV is for the J. Walter Thompson network.

What a magnificent win UDV is for the J. Walter Thompson


What a terrible blow for the Lowe Group. Whatever the behind-the-scenes

shenanigans and politics, there’s no getting away from the end


It’s a personal triumph for Miles Colebrook, JWT’s group president,

international, on a par with Kevin King’s Ford coup last year for Young

& Rubicam. Even the vanquished party concedes his was a magnificent

piece of account handling, turning a fledgling 18-month-old relationship

on J&B Whisky and Tanqueray gin into the global Smirnoff, Baileys and

Malibu accounts.

Of course, that wasn’t the beginning of the relationship. There are at

least two senior UDV directors who were clients of JWT in a previous

existence, and Tony Scouller, the highest profile UDV marketer in the

UK, once worked for the agency. Yes, the move is part of the ongoing UDV

cost-cutting exercise made inevitable by the formation of its Diageo

parent, but this is not Kimberly-Clark territory. Money does not appear

to be the main motivator.

Nor, sadly, is it the work. It’s extraordinary how many times a client

leaves Lowe claiming it’s not about the work. This time, the UDV press

release emphasises ’it has been entirely satisfied with Lowe’s

performance’ - which, of course, is poppycock. Why move then? Smirnoff,

in particular, has long been regarded as a model global account:

effective and creative advertising that crosses international borders

with aplomb. It’s the kind of account Frank Lowe (or any network chief)

can build a network on, because it provides not only real income, but

genuine creative opportunities and is, therefore, a great staff


Lowe did not see the axe coming and, to be fair to the agency, the

timing is a bit strange given that it has only just been appointed on

Smirnoff and Baileys in Australia, for example. But there have been

problems with the relationship in the US, and it’s self-evident that

Lowe’s work on Baileys has been slow in coming forward.

As long ago as last summer, a senior UDV client of Lowe asked me wearily

why creative work always took so long to produce, and why the production

budgets were always so expensive. The frustration was palpable, and it’s

not the first time such complaints have been levelled at the agency -

although the proviso was that the wait is usually worth it. In short,

UDV must have decided that it no longer was.

Lowe will surely find itself another international drinks client - it

does have a great story to tell on Smirnoff. For JWT in London, the

brands (particularly Smirnoff) are a great opportunity, particularly to

lift the London agency out of the creative doldrums. As a happy bonus,

it will more than make up for losing the local Barclays account. The

international JWT account men have done their bit - now it’s over to the

local creatives.

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