1. The Publicis/Omnicom merger
When the $35 billion mega-merger between Publicis Groupe and Omnicom collapsed spectacularly in May, it wasn’t just egg that was left on the faces of Maurice Lévy and John Wren – the damage went deeper still. Born from financial imperative rather than creative (or logical) reasoning, it showed that the holding companies seemed to care more about media might and back-office savings than client desire or genuinely beneficial synergies. Still, at least it allowed Sir Martin Sorrell to make some of the best quips of the year at the expense of the failed deal.
2. Kwik Fit’s RFI
Adam & Eve/DDB does not tend to walk away from many accounts so, when it split with its long-standing client Kwik Fit in August, eyebrows were naturally raised. The reason for the break-up became more apparent when the tyre-fitting company released its tender document to agencies asking them to submit creative treatments ahead of any face-to-face meetings. With the RFI also littered with spelling mistakes, you could tell that this was a client who seemed to care little (or was unaware) of the value of advertising. While many agencies laudably refused to participate, the account eventually moved to Enter.
3. The O2 media account
Having made the beleaguered ZenithOptimedia go through a gruelling pitch process to retain the £200 million pan-European media account in July, the O2 owner Telefónica decided to shift the business to Havas Media just three months later. The intervention of the Havas chairman, Vincent Bolloré, to secure the business looked questionable and drew the ire of the IPA over poor pitch practice. But it was little comfort for ZenithOptimedia, which had worked on the account for 23 years.
4. Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay
When WPP announced in its annual report that Sir Martin Sorrell had trousered nearly £30 million in 2013, some shareholders were (not for the first time) in uproar. The bulk of the eye-watering sum was made up of a long-term incentive scheme but it still marked a 70 per cent increase on the previous year. At the company’s AGM, questions were raised over whether he was really worth £24,000 an hour while the company could not commit itself to paying all its staff the living wage.
5. Paddy Power and Oscar Pistorius
Having been responsible for some of the cleverest and most provocative advertising stunts, Paddy Power pushed its luck too far in March with a tasteless campaign that tried to make light of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The Advertising Standards Authority reported "unprecedented" levels of complaints and forced the bookmaker to pull the "money back if he walks" ad.
6. The Engine shareholder revolt
The smiles were briefly wiped off the faces of the Engine management team after an alliance of rebel shareholders temporarily managed to block the company’s sale to the US private-equity group Lake Capital. The rebels – made up of former employees – were unhappy that they were expected to accept a different offer for their shares compared with existing staff. After a tense stand-off, concessions were made and both parties seemed contented. But the premature announcement of the deal was an embarrassing episode.
7. Helen Goodman MP
The shadow minister for media Helen Goodman made some deeply worrying comments at the Advertising Association’s Lead 2014 conference and told the industry that a Labour government would not be afraid to introduce more regulation against marketing practices. Staggeringly, she also claimed that "excessive marketing" was in part responsible for the London riots of 2011 – a view that left many attendees aghast. The Labour Party later extended a much-needed olive branch to the industry, although Goodman’s views remain a concern.
8. Hello People
The swift demise of Hello People (formerly known as Dye Holloway Murray) after less than a year of trading was a salutary tale to anyone considering launching a start-up. While Dave Dye, Rachel Hatton and Hugh Baillie all took an equal stake in the shop, the decision of Baillie to join FullSIX, citing a lack of new business, left Hello People looking very precarious. Critics were quick to point out that new business was Baillie’s responsibility. Either way, the remaining pair shortly followed and the shutters came down on the agency. Goodbye, Hello People.
9. Extended payment terms
Kingston Smith W1’s report on extended payment terms revealed that 91 per cent of senior agency executives surveyed said that they had been asked by a client to extend terms. Aside from the financial impact on agencies, the knock-on effect to small suppliers and individuals needing payment is potentially devastating to the creative services industry.
10. The British Airways pitch
Despite a clear timetable with dates set for each part of the process, things soon slipped and the pitch turned into a laborious and expensive saga. All credit is due to Bartle Bogle Hegarty for keeping the advertising and seizing the CRM portion, but one agency chief described the process as running "longer than The Mousetrap".