£100m Asda set to be the big UK pitch of 2013

We should be grateful for retail advertisers in the UK – they’re not usually part of a huge international business so they review their ad accounts quite regularly while the rest of the world tends to pick and choose from existing agency rosters as the mood takes them.

Last year the biggest pitch was Tesco, which eventually moved from The Red Brick Road to Wieden+Kennedy, and this year it’s likely to be rival Asda, which is reviewing out of Saatchi & Saatchi according to Campaign.

Saatchi inherited the business from stablemate Fallon in 2009. Before that it spent many years at Publicis, former home of top Asda executive Rick Bendel who now works for parent company Walmart.

This review seems to have more to do with newly-appointed marketing director Chris McDonough, who joined from Molson Coors, who is doing what new marketing directors do.

Here’s Saatchi’s last major effort, for Christmas last year. It took a lot of stick in some quarters for being sexist, unfairly.

Asda is reported to have an ad budget of around £100m (Tesco’s is £140m) although it’s hard to see where either spend the money. Across the UK’s major retail businesses there’s a stark absence of anything you might call a campaign in the traditional sense. Even the much-praised John Lewis seems to confine itself to two big ads a year.

So who’ll be up for Asda? Publicis, obviously, which has no doubt tried to keep in with its old contacts at Asda (assuming there are any). M&C Saatchi, although it handles Dixons which may be accounted a conflict.

And our old pals at WPP, who suggested to Tesco that it might consider a ‘closed’ WPP pitch, among Grey, JWT, Ogilvy and Y&R as it managed to persuade both News International and Vodafone to do last year.

This notion wasn’t warmly received by Tesco and I doubt it would be by Asda either. But one WPP agency at least will surely be a strong contender. It’s about time McCann got itself a decent retail client too.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.