Agency pitches are certainly changing – now JWT teams with Capita to win UK army account

It doesn’t seem that long ago that new business pitches were prepared the night before, often by dragging a reluctant creative team out of the pub.

There would, of course, be a big research document but the hope (and often the reality) was that the client wouldn’t bother reading it.

Not so in these advanced times. JWT London has just been awarded the UK Ministry of Defence’s army recruitment account, not the most inviting of tasks perhaps when the British Army is being slashed to the bone as part of the Government’s deficit-reduction policy.

And this after a three-year pitch apparently, and as part of a consortium with outsourcing giant Capita, a controversial outfit that has grown big and immensely rich by taking on public service contracts.

So Capita’s running the army is it? Actually it might not be such a bad idea as the MoD, consisting mainly of innumerable ex-military types who clearly can’t add up, has made a right mess of it these past few years with equipment levels in Afghanistan and Iraq going down as surely as spending goes up.

But, as for actual army recruits, does the UK need any? Members of all three armed services are being made redundant, often after years of hugely expensive training. And the army still has about 30,000 soldiers and huge amounts of heavy equipment (its tanks are too big to transport to the Middle East) in Germany.

These used to be there to confront the Warsaw Pact but that ceased to be a factor nearly 30 years ago. What’s their present purpose? Attacking Angela Merkel?

The MoD would doubtless argue that it still needs army recruitment marketing to improve the quality of intakes, even though there won’t be very many of them. So it’s created a spanking new Recruitment Partnering Project at a reported cost of £50m a year. This pays for Capita and its allies, including JWT, to act as shiny new brooms. The ad budget is supposed to be £2m a year.

JWT somehow seems like the obvious home for the army (it beat AMV/BBDO in a shootout according to Campaign). Years ago JWT was mostly staffed in its upper echelons by ex-services types, chaps with proper tailors who knew which way to pass the port.

Its biggest task will be to persuade Capita that it needs to spend anything on recruitment advertising at all.

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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.