Microsoft has shifted its Office account from JWT to roster agency Deutsch while its new Bing search engine account is also looking for a new home, likely to Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
This is a devastating double whammy for JWT as it launched Bing, Microsoft’s latest rival to Google, back in 2009.
JWT CEO Bob Jeffrey told Ad Age: “To say we’re not angry would be dishonest. I’ve been in the business a long time, and I’ve had positive calls and negative calls and this was one of the most shocking in my time. We’re winning an Effie for Bing and we’ve won other accolades for the work.”
The move of Bing in particular will come as less of a surprise to some outsiders who have been critical of JWT’s ‘data overload’ campaign for the search engine. The chief criticism is that it presents Bing users as deeply tech unsavvy, a perennial sore spot for the company founded by ultimate geeks Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
Crispin Porter has also grappled with this problem in the fairly recent past with its much-hyped campaign featuring Gates and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
Alas, this wasn’t deemed a success either.
But Crispin Porter still has a stellar creative reputation and is more ravenous than hungry at the moment having just lost 30 per cent of its income with the loss of Burger King after a ten-year tenure.
The sacking of JWT from most of its Microsoft business (it keeps some Windows 7 business in China and Brazil) may also reflect some recent departures.
Microsoft advertising boss Mich Matthews quit recently after 22 years to be replaced by Chris Caposella and JWT New York also lost top managers Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan who quit to set up their new ‘brand innovation studio’ Co: last year. The pair were integral to the successful launch of Bing in 2009.
Microsoft spends around $1bn on advertising in the US so the reverberations of the loss will go all the way up to the upper echelons of owner WPP.
CEO Jeffrey is a popular manager (he was recently voted the best CEO to work for among US agencies) but WPP’s extensive agency line-up (JWT, Oglvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam and Grey) struggles when one of them comes up against a more ‘creative’ agency.
The narrowing of the gap between traditional advertising and digital, with a whole new sector of ‘shared’ films and virals coming on the scene, has increased the premium on creativity.
The likes of MDC-owned Crispin Porter, Interpublic-owned Duetsch and independents like Wieden+Kennedy are providing ferocious competition for the big networks.
Being a safe pair of hands is no longer enough, not even for Microsoft.