Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Read's blushes have been spared, but King still needs a big win

Having lost out on Centrica, the BT victory goes a small way to numb the pain.

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"Annette needs a win." That has been the chat doing the rounds as Annette King passed the 12-month barrier as chief executive of Publicis Groupe UK earlier this summer. Well, now she’s got one – although probably not the one she’d hoped for.

That’s not to say that BT shifting the campaign for its brand relaunch from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to Publicis isn’t staggering in its own way. Having already hired Wunderman Thompson to work on a BT Sport brief, it’s beginning to look like BT’s long-standing relationship with AMV, whose links go right back to David Abbott himself, is collapsing in increments, despite what the client says to the contrary.

For King, BT will perhaps go some small way to numbing the pain of losing out on the integrated Centrica account after a head-to-head pitch against WPP, whose team was led by The & Partnership London’s Sarah Golding. But it hasn’t given King the substantive vote of confidence in the "Power of one" proposition that she will have wanted and the industry is looking out for (although, in fairness, her team has only just been completed with the recent arrival of Ben Mooge as group chief creative officer).

In a seven-month process, run in conjunction with ID Comms, another WPP team led by Ogilvy UK was the first to be eliminated, followed by an Interpublic team led by McCann UK. At a final pitch, WPP triumphed with its Team Nucleus proposition and an interesting integrated agency structure solution.

While the stakes were high for King, who drew on significant resource in the process, including using Publicis North America’s chief creative officer, Andy Bird, to help with the process, WPP chief executive Mark Read probably had similar feelings. You can only imagine the relief that was felt in winning the business, which includes North America and Ireland, given that a series of losses was blamed for WPP's recent financial performance.

Moreover, you can only imagine the (probably personal) sniping that would come from one particular tiresome corner had WPP not delivered – in that regard, Golding has helped to spare Read’s blushes.

King won’t need anyone to tell her that a hefty win is still top of the must-do list. With Mooge now joining her to lead creative for the UK group and with "dotted line" responsibility for each of its component agencies' chief creative officers, Publicis Groupe’s creativity – something that Centrica’s group chief marketing officer Margaret Jobling said helped swing it in WPP’s favour – will also be under the spotlight.

Jeremy Lee is consulting editor at Campaign