Thomas Cook collapse sees last-minute cancellation of £26m ad campaign

Gaggle won creative brief at end of August.

Thomas Cook: hypnotised air passengers in recent campaign
Thomas Cook: hypnotised air passengers in recent campaign

Tom Bazeley, founder and managing director of content and production company Gaggle, has told Campaign that he was due to fly to Majorca today (26 September) to shoot an ad for Thomas Cook. But the travel group's collapse has left the start-up out of pocket.

Meanwhile, Dentsu Aegis Network has been hit by the tour operator's collapse, but insisted that the "impact on our business and people will be minimal".

Gaggle, which launched in June , was invited to pitch for Thomas Cook in early August. Bazeley and Gaggle creative director James Rawlings competed against another four shops.

At the end of August, Gaggle was told that it had won the business. The brief was to present Thomas Cook's hotel and digital offering as a less traditional holiday company and with a more contemporary edge.

The idea was presented to Thomas Cook's UK managing director and a budget was signed off – £500,000 in production costs and media spend of more than £26m to run advertising for 10 months from December, Bazeley said.

"As far back as the first or second week of August, the client knew that the [Chinese investor] Fosun deal was happening," he added. According to Bazeley, about £3m in media spend was released to fund TV advertising in June and July.

By the end of last week, Gaggle had written the scripts, cast the ad, negotiated music rights, instructed a local production company abroad and was planning to fly to Majorca today.

"As recently as last Friday, we were reassured that a deal would be signed with Fosun and we talked through the media plan and asset list in some detail," Bazeley said.

But on Friday evening, news broke that Thomas Cook had approached the government, saying that it would collapse unless it found £200m in extra funds, after a demand by creditors including the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Bazeley said that he is almost certain that the marketing, commercial and sales teams were unaware of the impending collapse.

"For us, it was our launch client and that opportunity has now passed," he said. Bazeley added that the debacle has cost his business "a significant amount of cash for a start-up".

Meanwhile, Dentsu Aegis Network handled much of Thomas Cook's media and advertising over the past decade, with agencies Carat, iProspect and BJL having worked on the brand.

Rachel McDonald, Dentsu Aegis Network North's managing director, said: "Our partnership with Thomas Cook extended more than 10 years, during which time we developed some fantastic relationships and created award-winning work that we are all incredibly proud of.

"While we will miss working with our colleagues at Thomas Cook, our working practices have ensured that the impact on our business and people will be minimal."

Thomas Cook's troubles had been going on for some time. In March, Campaign reported that the group had slashed its media spend in January and February across TV, radio, print and digital.

After months of attempting to raise funds for a £1.1bn bailout of Thomas Cook, Fosun decided not to invest any more money into the business.

The Insolvency Service, which is handling the liquidation, told Campaign that it could not comment on specific contracts or arrangements. A spokesman said: "Regarding payments, the agency would need to register as a creditor in the liquidation in order to make a claim for payment on services provided to the company."

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