Wieden+Kennedy London boss Neil Christie rebuffs Nokia account review story

Wieden+Kennedy managing director Neil Christie has responded in robust manner to yesterday’s story in Campaign (followed up by us here) to the effect that its Nokia ad account was under review and that Fallon had won a chunk of it (Fallon has been a Nokia roster agency for some time now).

Here’s Neil’s description of what appears to have been a particularly wearing Thursday. He has also posted two comments on MAA (see home page).

What a day.

First you read on the front page of Campaign that one of your key global clients has given half the business to a competitor and put the other half up for pitch.

Then a power cut closes down your server so you have no access to email, internet, hard drive…

Then the battery on your mobile gives out.


The servers are still down but at least the story in Campaign was wrong. If you saw that article today you would have been led to believe that ‘Nokia calls £90m pitch’ for its global smartphones business. This isn’t true. Nokia has confirmed that there is no such pitch.

In a double whammy shit sandwich, the article goes on to say “Nokia has appointed roster agency Fallon to its estimated £90 million global advertising account for its mobile phone range.”

(Wow, so that’s £180 million now? Or is that the same £90 million again? Can we just round up to £200 million?)

Anyway, Nokia has also confirmed that nobody else has won the global mobile phones account. And we haven’t lost any business.

So, to be clear:

1. There is no global pitch for Nokia smartphones

2. We have not lost the global Nokia mobile phones business

So, how do stories like these get printed?

Journalists are keen to get a good story out there. They want to scoop their rivals, so they’ll try to keep a story to themselves before releasing it. That may mean not having time to check it with all parties involved.

And agencies are desperate to get a good news story out there to raise their profile and boost or repair their reputation, so they may be tempted to enthusiastically massage a story into life.

What difference does it make? It’s only a story in the trade press. Well, yeah. But it’s a right pain in the arse when such a big bad news story is not true.

Reminds me of the time when Campaign ran a front page story about a ‘forthcoming pitch’ for the Visit Wales account that put Wieden + Kennedy ‘under threat’. I posted a £1000 bet on this blog to the journalist who wrote the story that there was no pitch and we’d still have the business at the end of the year. That was four years ago. We still have the business. I never got my £1000. How we laughed.

Ah well, some days are better than others.

Well if we’re wrong we’re wrong and we’re sorry (can’t speak for Campaign which, as far as I know, is standing by the story).

Why do these things happen?

Often clients deny agency changes even when they’re happening. Or refuse to comment when a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would save a lot of grief.

And, of course, sooner or later (often years and years later) they will change agencies because that’s the way of the world. Although this may have nothing to do with the events described in the original article. But you don’t really know.

From a personal point of view I can sympathise with the predicament of the reporter and news editor at Campaign, having done both jobs. If this was a procurement department exercise (as Neil says in his latest Comment) such departments aren’t particularly chatty. Sometimes you have to back your own judgement, take a bit of a flyer actually.

Actually Campaign does remarkably well in this online world to consistently reserve a decent story for its Thursday print edition. Being news editor must be a sod of a job.

So there we have it (for now anyway).

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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.