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Paul Simons: why do clients squander vast amounts of money changing strategy – and agency?

From time to time any observant individual will notice the small number of advertisers who chop and change their advertising partners on a too regular basis. I always wonder in these cases is if the advertiser is searching for a brand strategy rather than a communication strategy.

article-2336376-057F45FF0000044D-501_634x368-1A good case in point currently is Bathstore who have just appointed Saatchi & Saatchi following a pitch. So far this decade they worked with M&C Saatchi and Hanger Seven, two very different types of agency partners and now they’re going back in to one of the big multinationals. So on average that’s a change every two and a half years. By the end of the decade that would mean two further changes making five in total over ten years.

One of the major consequences of this behaviour is likely to be low to zero brand properties, or advertising assets, after a decade of expenditure. When M&C picked up the business it was claimed to be a £6m (media) account. So £60m over the decade and half way through what have they got for their £30m? Guessing not a lot.

I led a small team at Ogilvy to develop, create and launch MORE TH>N for RSA in the early part of the last decade. The launch was a huge success commercially and one big advertising asset emerged rapidly, Lucky the dog. However a marketing director was hired just before the launch and over the next year he constantly chipped away at the advertising and after one year announced the account was moving – without any explanation. Since then the marketing director chair there has been filled with various bottoms, advertising agencies have come and gone, advertising themes have meandered all over the park and, after 15 years and about £150m of media exposure, MORE TH>N is very unlikely to have built any kind of brand asset the public can recall.

It always feels criminal to me that a CEO worth his or her salt doesn’t see this behaviour as squandering vast amounts of money; something that would not be tolerated in any other part of the business.

Claire Bayliss, CMO of Bathstore (why are marketing directors changing their job titles to CMO?) said they have spent a lot of time developing their brand strategy. Hopefully this will mean some stability on the agency front for several years to come.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.
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