Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay, he chortled in his joy. As well the knight of Farm Street might when he received news that WPP had wrested back Vodafone’s strategic creative account, which had embarrassingly eluded his clutches for the past 3 years.
The account is “strategic” in several respects. First, it is worth a great deal of money – £50m a year in the UK alone. It also gives WPP control of the commanding heights of the Vodafone marketing services business: mastery of the Big Idea, from which all else in due course flows. Finally, it provides further eloquent testimony, in the wake of HSBC and Dell, that an integrated agency specifically built around a client’s global needs, and known as the WPP Team model, actually works. (No one mention Samsung in this context, by the way.)
Most piquant of all, however, will be the knowledge that Sir Martin has managed to deliver a body blow to the nether regions of rival agency group BBH. BBH comes from a different place on the agency spectrum to conglomerate WPP. It’s a creative micro-network, with limited international distribution. The idea being that it can seed a great creative concept capable of playing globally even though others may be left to distribute, and adapt it, to local markets. BBH, long one of the UK’s most accomplished creative agencies, has had considerable success with the micro-network mantra. Which helped it, for example, to win British Airways.
Worryingly, it had begun to peck at WPP’s entrails by winning the really big accounts from which, in the pre-digital age, it would have been precluded by its smaller scale. The loss of substantial Unilever business was a particular sore point.
And then, of course, there was Vodafone. In 2002 WPP looked as if it had got the Vodafone business all wrapped up when its leading brand agency, JWT, won the international account. Not for long. BBH was appointed to the telecoms giant’s roster in 2004 without a pitch and from then on began to prise open JWT’s grip on the account. To this day, BBH handles the UK strategic account, while JWT is left with the more boring product stuff.
So the act of seeing off BBH as well as McCann Erickson in a 3-way pitch for the global strategic business will have been balm indeed for WPP’s nettled leader. We can only presume that the UK bit of the business retained by BBH will soon be on notice…if Sir Martin has anything to do with it.