2010 ends as it started for Bartle Bogle Hegarty with big Ebay loss

It certainly has been an annus horribilis for Bartle Bogle Hegarty and the year is going out in much the same vein with the agency’s resignation of the Ebay account, supposedly worth £22m.

As with all such resignations it’s doubtful if the client spent anything like the estimated budget as the reason for such a parting of the ways is usually the client not spending to expectations or not approving creative work (which amounts to the same thing).

BBH told Campaign it had resigned the business because of changes at the client, presumably management comings and goings. Ebay isn’t saying so far.

Well these things happen, it’s just that they seem to be happening to BBH quite a lot.

Earlier in the year it resigned its anchor Levi’s account, the inspiration for some of its most famous work although not latterly. In the US it dispensed with the services of North America chairman Steve Harty and creative director Kevin Roddy following the loss of the Cadillac account to sister agency Publicis.

Maybe remaining BBH founders Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty and CEO Simon Sherwood have just decided to clear the decks of the accounts they are struggling with to start afresh in 2011.

The trouble is that an agency dumping clients isn’t like dumping your girlfriend or boyfriend and deciding to stay single for a bit. You can be the most magnificent agency in the whole wide world but you need some big clients to share it with.

BBH has always prided itself on doing things its way, essentially calling the shots in the agency/client relationship even to the extent of refusing to pitch creative work (the one time all agencies are supposed to be nice to their customers).

It’s possible that some of the newer client individuals on the block are a bit less respectful of such agency attitudes than their forebears were. Certainly an increasing number seem to favour the notion of having a loose roster of agencies and cherry-picking their best ideas for each new campaign.

This is probably inevitable when you get digital agencies trying to muscle in on the traditional agency patch and vice versa.

But it’s not the BBH way of doing things.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.