WPP failed to make the Tesco cut – are all of its big UK agencies fit for purpose?

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell (left) already has a lot on his plate, but one thing he ought to take time out to reflect on is why one of his agencies didn’t get closer to winning the £110m Tesco account which went to Wieden+Kennedy.

Two of them, JWT and RKCR/Y&R, were on the long list but neither made it through to a final shoot-out that also included TBWA Manchester (which recently lost the Co-op’s business to Leo Burnett after a long tenure) and Chime-owned VCCP.

Sorrell has previous with Tesco. He discussed backing Tesco’s former agency The Red Brick Road with Sir Frank Lowe after Lowe fell out with Lowe & Partners owner Interpublic. On the face of it it seems reasonable that the UK’s biggest marcoms group should handle the UK’s biggest account, but WPP has never come close.

Cynics might point out that the Tesco review was handled by matchmakers-of-the-moment Oystercatchers, comprising Suki Thompson and former JWT EMEA new business director Peter Cowie. Famously, relations between Sorrell and Oystercatchers are not good.

A while ago Oystercatchers became involved with an abortive breakaway from a WPP brand agency and were given a good kicking by WPP’s lawyers.

Let’s call that a red herring, shall we? What, however, the framing of the review does seem to have done is preclude WPP’s favourite tactic of the moment, the pan-agency ‘Team’ approach. So, no Team Tesco card to play.

It’s not just Tesco Sorrell needs to worry about, of course.

Look at the Campaign/Nielsen Top 20 agencies list and you’ll note that WPP is mostly absent from the upper reaches of that too, the exception being RKCR/Y&R.

WPP isn’t the only marcoms giant suffering from creative droop: Publicis Groupe’s Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon also languish; although Leo Burnett is nearer the top than it’s been for decades, as is now 100 per cent owned Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

All the same, Sorrell needs to look hard at his big UK agency brands, in particular JWT and Ogilvy, to find out why they aren’t cutting the mustard. WPP may be comfortably the world’s biggest marcoms company but, in the end, it’s only as good as the sum of its parts.

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    Yes all that. But any truth to the rumour he turned up half an hour late to the chemistry meeting and then proceeded to bore the shit out of them?