Starcom has worked on the business for a decade, but was informed by ITV's new marketing director, Clare Salmon, who is three months into the job, that the account was up for review.
According to Jim Marshall, the chairman of Starcom Group UK, the relationship between Starcom and ITV has been under strain for some time, prompting the agency to resign the business.
He said: "It's been a long relationship, which has had its ups and downs with management and ownership changes. Most recently, the relationship has been a bit fraught with the trading aspect. We can't let a tiny part of our business impact upon the rest of our clients."
At the start of 2004, Starcom and ITV were in dispute over the value of the Cadbury sponsorship of Coronation Street. Starcom won the Cadbury account from Carat and attempted to renegotiate the £10m sponsorship deal, leading to an impasse. This was eventually resolved but it is understood that Starcom still felt uncomfortable at the potential conflict of interest inherent in being one of the biggest customers of one of its smallest clients.
Although it's the biggest commercial broadcaster, ITV's marketing spend has steadily diminished over the years. The BBC has a £12m marketing budget, Channel 4 has £5m and Five has £4.5m. In 2004, ITV's budget was £4m. However, it is expected to more than double this investment under Salmon.
The creative account, which has been held by Bartle Bogle Hegarty since 2001, is not included in the review, although sources expect it to follow.
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