Publicis London was built on two accounts, foundation French business from Renault and Asda, the giant UK supermarket chain once run by Archie Norman and Allan Leighton and now owned by Walmart.
But Asda upped sticks back in 2007 for Fallon and them moved to stablemate Saatchi & Saatchi, a big surprise at the time because Asda’s marketing director was former Publicis agency boss Rick Bendel. Both Fallon and Saatchis are owned by Publicis owner Publicis Groupe.
Ever since then the agency has been looking for a big replacement retailer (or the return of Asda).
So when we read in Campaign today that The Red Brick Road’s managing director Karen Buchanan is replacing Neil Simpson as CEO of Publicis London it seems to fit as Buchanan has been running the £40m Tesco account ever since The Red Brick Road bunch, headed by Sir Frank Lowe, broke away from Lowe & Partners with the UK’s biggest supermarket chain.
Buchanan doubtless has other talents besides being a top retail account director but she looks tailor made to head an agency that’s desperate to win a top retailer.
And, of course, changes are afoot at the Red Brick Road too. Lowe has retired and is said by some to be in dispute with his former partners who want to merge TRBR with its digital agency Ruby, and maybe call the whole thing Ruby. Lowe is rather attached to the agency’s eccentric moniker (the red brick road being the one Judy Garland didn’t take in the Wizard of Oz).
A further factor is that Tesco CEO (and former marketing director) Sir Terry Leahy retired on Tuesday, meaning that two strong links with the former Lowe team have already been broken. The two knights Terry and Frank go right back to the 1970s and the formation of Lowe Howard-Spink.
Now a third one has with the departure of Buchanan.
We shouldn’t jump to too many conclusions of course. Tesco advertising at Lowe and then TRBR has always been classy and cool even when it’s slugging it out in a price war. Publicis’ work for Asda was anything but, definitely at the cheap and cheerful end of the spectrum.
And Tesco, even it were inclined to look around, might well baulk at being at an agency owned by the same holding company, Publicis Groupe, as big rival Asda.