Ralston shop reels over Abbey loss

Barker and Ralston may be forced to make nearly half its staff redundant after losing its flagship Abbey National business - which bills an estimated pounds 15 million - to Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper this week.

Barker and Ralston may be forced to make nearly half its staff

redundant after losing its flagship Abbey National business - which

bills an estimated pounds 15 million - to Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper this

week.



The move, which consolidated the Abbey National’s entire account at

Euro RSCG, comes only six months after the agency lost its grasp on

Saab’s pounds 8 million advertising business. The losses wipe nearly

three quarters off the agency’s pounds 33 million (Register-MEAL) 1996

billings.



The Abbey loss will also affect Barker and Ralston’s tentative alliance

with McCann-Erickson (Campaign, 7 February). The two sides have already

had further talks this week.



Derek Ralston, the founder and managing director of Barker and Ralston,

was putting a brave face on the Abbey loss this week, stressing that he

will fight to keep the agency’s style and culture. He insisted only

eight of Barker and Ralston’s 28 staffers would have to leave.



However, other insiders put the number at 13. The redundancies come

mainly from the agency’s production and studio facilities, according to

Ralston.



Some are likely to find work on the account at Euro RSCG.



One option for Barker and Ralston, which now has four active clients -

Beck’s Bier, E&J Gallo, Thresher and HPI Equifax - is to merge with

another agency, likely to be McCanns.



The McCanns alliance was set up to be a symbiotic relationship, giving

Barker and Ralston the services of a big multinational in running its

E&J Gallo wine account overseas, and McCanns a foot in the door of a

large piece of financial business such as the Abbey.



The Abbey’s decision to increase advertising spend by around a third,

to pounds 40 million, and hand it to Euro RSCG without a pitch came as

a surprise to Barker and Ralston, but the Abbey’s customer marketing

director, Sara Weller, has been concerned that the agency might not

have the critical mass to be a long-term partner.



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