PERSPECTIVE: Nike rejection will bring out the best in Simons Palmer

Nike’s switch to Wieden & Kennedy inspires conflicting reactions.

Nike’s switch to Wieden & Kennedy inspires conflicting


Many will feel a good deal of sympathy for the Simons Palmer crew. Its

work on the brand has ranged from the very good to the outstanding. From

the ’Kick It’ commercial to ’Parklife’ and a succession of excellent

posters: ’Behind every goalkeeper’, ’1966’, ’He’s been punished’ and

others right up to this year’s illustrated campaign. Nike came from

relative obscurity to become the market leader in sportswear, and the

ads - although they occasionally overdosed on testosterone -

encapsulated the ’just do it’ philosophy.

In the meantime Simons Palmer, as was, had to live with persistent

rumour and speculation that Wieden & Kennedy, the US hotshop that

handles the rest of the world and all the non-football and rugby stuff

we see here too, was to open up in the UK and snaffle the account. It

got worse when the agency did make a foray into Europe and set up in

Amsterdam, but Nike stayed loyal.

But then Simons Palmer gave Nike an excuse to review which the work had

not justified. Its deal with TBWA, while hugely beneficial in many

obvious ways, allowed Nike to argue that it was time to see what else

was out there. It’s also a client with an image that requires it to be

with the sexiest agency in town. TBWA Simons Palmer, for the moment,

does not enjoy that reputation, despite the staff’s growing confidence

in the combined force.

After the acrimony of the deal and the fall-out of Trevor Beattie’s

departure, the agency has settled down. Those who went to its recent

launch party can testify to a positive spirit pervading in an exciting

physical space.

And the staff have been buoyed by new business from Apple Computer,

Virgin and Sharwoods, as well as making it to the Guinness and ITV


But there’s no hiding from the Nike loss. It’s a disaster. It would be

for whichever agency lost it, but particularly so for a merged operation

trying to forge a new identity for itself, and attempting to prove it

has not lost that creative edge or been smothered by international


Nike gave the agency its best chance of creating award-winning work.

But the awards themselves are a bonus; it’s more the opportunity to work

with a like-minded client which has a history of buying outstanding and

challenging creative work. Nike is the kind of client that agency staff

go to work for. It’s not the loss of income that will hit the agency

hardest, it is the talismanic effect of the brand on the client


But don’t write them off. Messrs Simons, Clemmow and Johnson have

consistently been underrated by the UK advertising community. If they

win Guinness or ITV, Nike will soon be forgotten by all bar the creative


But they need one of them.

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