Six agencies appear to have made the cut for the first presentations for the £110m Tesco UK account: McCann, SapientNitro, VCCP, WCRS and WPP-owned Grey and JWT. The list may be added to but many people’s favourite Publicis seems to have been ruled out because sister agency Saatchi & Saatchi handles Asda (a long-time Publicis client) while our confident tip to progress, M&C Saatchi, may be excluded too.
At first glance the list, assembled by matchmakers Oystercatchers, seems to have drawn up on a rigid no conflict basis. M&C handles Dixons, owner of Currys and PC World, which Tesco may see a rival to its own substantial electrical offer. SapientNitro is the other surprise but irs digital capabilities are clearly attractive to Tesco (currently making a heavy investment in its non-food online offer) and the agency has also moved into traditional advertising to some effect recently for clients including Labrokes.
The problem with this, of course, is that retail experience is quite handy when you’re taking on something as big and complex as Tesco. But Tesco has surprised before, most notably when it moved the account from Saatchi & Saatchi (Saatchi brothers’ version) to Lowe Howard-Spink in the 1980s. Frank Lowe persuaded Tesco to run a completely off-the-wall campaign starring Dudley Moore as a buyer searching for French chickens and Tesco’s course was charted for 20 or so very successful years.
Tesco’s most recent agency, The Red Brick Road (whose heritage goes back to Lowe Howard-Spink) recently declined to repitch for the business following the decision by chairman and top creative Paul Weinberger to resign. Apparently Weinberger and agency CEO Paul Hammersley only learned of the Tesco review through the media. Weinberger, who had worked on Tesco for 22 years, was understandably miffed.
Whoever eventually wins this business will need a thick skin and, probably, a tin hat.