Linus Karlsson’s McCann loses £35m HTC to his former agency Mother

I don’t suppose former Mother US co-founder Linus Karlsson thought that reviving McCann Erickson in London and New York was going to be easy but he’s just received rude confirmation – Mother, the agency he left last year, has won handset giant HTC’s £35m European account from five-month incumbent McCann London.

HTC was always going to be a big challenge for the new creative broom at McCann (Karlsson is chairman and creative boss of both McCann London and New York) but he might have expected the opportunity to earn his spurs on a real campaign.

As things turned out Taiwan-based HTC decided to appoint two new marketers, Phil Robertson from Everything Everywhere and James Atkins from Freesat, and, as such brand warriors are prone to do, they decided to review the account and so Karlsson’s first job was overseeing a pitch.

As for Mother, which was clearly disappointed and somewhat surprised to see Karlsson decamp for McCann, the people there are far too nice to crow too loudly but they will surely see it as vindication of what they surely told Karlsson over a Swedish beer or two, namely that McCann is too set in its ways to become a creative agency any time soon.

There is also the factor that clients like to employ the bright young things of the agency world (as opposed to behemoths like McCann) and will move might and main to do so if they’re not tied in by international arrangements. HTC may be the biggest and most successful handset maker in the world these days but it’s a relatively new player under its own brand so Robertson and Atkins would have enjoyed a free hand.

Mother will doubtless be a good choice (it’s now well established in the States as well as the UK) as it has shown it can perform for big clients like Ikea and InBev’s Stella. But it’s difficult to think of an outstanding recent campaign for a handset maker (or mobile company of any description) as they’re always obsessed with plugging the latest feature that they hope will give them a short-term sales advantage. And nobody, apart from Apple, has found a way to make phone handsets look remotely interesting. So HTC will be a challenge.

As for Karlsson and his boss at McCann Worldwide Nick Brien they’ve just been given a reminder (if they needed one) that radical changes at big agencies are always at the mercy of events, usually called clients.

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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.