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Apple adds four new digital agencies and signals holding company fight for $1bn-plus global ad account

images-3It’s strange to see the mighty Apple on the back foot but that seems to be the case in its titanic marketing battle with Samsung.

Now Ad Age reports that the tech company is to hire four new digital agencies: WPP’s AKQA, IPG’s Huge and New York indie shops Area 17 and Kettle. Hitherto Apple has used mainly TBWA”s Digital Arts Network, Lowe’s Profero and Publicis Groupe’s Rosetta.

The move comes as court papers released in its latest spat with Samsung show Apple execs fretting about Samsung’s more confident and aggressive advertising as TBWA tried and failed to get to grips with a new campaign for the latest version of the iPhone.

Choosing the right digital agency – or line-up of digital agencies – seems to be a nightmare these days. Some are at the creative end of the spectrum, others technology-led but there don’t seem to very many able to persuade clients they are both. And managing such rosters much be problematic too with each one in the line-up almost certainly suggesting it does something that has already been ascribed to someone else.

The other Apple factor is the growth of its own creative unit, now numbering several hundred people, many from agencies. It seems odd to be adding agencies when your in-house resource is growing but Google does the same.

Apple’s problems lie deeper than shuffling its agency line-up. The company used to be loved by its customers despite its high prices, in stark contrast to long-time rival Microsoft. Now it’s disliked by many for its high prices, cavalier attitude to paying tax and reluctance to make its gadgets more versatile – by adding a keypad to the iPad for example.

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Apple’s global ad budget has recently passed the $1bn mark, although this is is still only a tiny percentage of sales. It looks as though this will have to increase substantially just to keep everybody gainfully employed.

And the battle over who handles this rather large sum of money is clearly hotting up. Long-time incumbents Omnicom (TBWA) and Publicis Groupe (Rosetta) are set to merge. They won’t be too happy to see IPG’s Huge (IPG also now owns Profero via Lowe) and, especially, WPP’s AKQA muscling in on the action.

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