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Premier Foods takes double-speak to a whole new level as it tries to mug agencies for 40 grand

This was a story that appeared in Campaign last week: to wit, that the Marketing Agencies Association was complaining that Premier Foods, the clapped-out British food company, was inviting its members (mostly what we used to call sales promotion agencies) to fork out 40 grand to get on the Premier Foods roster.

Now, somewhat belatedly, Premier has denied the charge. Here’s Campaign’s later report:

The MAA last week spoke out against advertisers that demand upfront fees from their agencies, and singled out Premier Foods after one medium-sized agency was told to contribute more than £40,000.

A spokeswoman for Premier Foods said: “We would like to point out we do not charge agencies to be on our roster.”

The spokeswoman confirmed the company had asked for an “investment payment” from suppliers to confirm “their desire to remain a strategic supplier in the future”.

It is understood that all of Premier Foods’ agencies, which include JWT London, McCann London and Starcom MediaVest Group, have been approached with the request.

Although a spokeswoman for Premier Foods insisted the money was an investment, rather than a payment, agencies do not get any equity in the company in return.

The request is part of a supplier review by Premier Foods. The company plans to cut costs after selling off business like Branston Pickle to focus on its self-titled “power brands” like Hovis and Ambrosia. It aims to halve the number of third parties it works with by 2014.

The Premier Foods spokeswoman said: “Focusing on fewer, more strategic supplier partnerships will enable us to identify more ideas to drive mutual growth.

“As a first step we are asking our suppliers for an investment payment to demonstrate their support for the business and their desire to remain a strategic supplier in the future.

“Discussions with a wide range of our suppliers have been very positive. They understand that if they support us to grow, they will also benefit too.”

The report goes on to say that Premier Foods reported a pre-tax loss of £23.5 million for the half-year ending 30 June 2013. Basically the company is a train crash.

But have you ever read such nonsense, from the ‘spokeswoman,’ in your life? It’s not an up-front bribe but an investment? In what?

I was half-minded to check out the list of Premier Foods spokeswomen to try to determine which brazen hussy uttered this nonsense but I suppose that would be unfair. No doubt she’s doing her job, as she dimly perceives it.

I hope JWT, McCann and Starcom tell Premier to fuck off.

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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.
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