Starcom MediaVest tells Premier Foods where to stuff its agency “investment” fee

In one of agency land’s rare outbreaks of principle Publicis Groupe-owned media agency Starcom MediaVest has shown Premier Foods the door after the struggling British food company asked it, along with its other agencies, to pay an “investment” fee to stay on its roster.

This is believed to amount to about £40,000 and the same has been asked of its other agencies who include WPP’s JWT and IPG’s McCann. These have yet to disclose their reaction. Shame on them if they don’t show Premier the door as well.

SMG’s Ian Jacob says: “We pride ourselves on being a transparent business and we operate to the highest professional standards.” Which is a rather weaselly way of suggesting Premier doesn’t.

Cash-strapped Premier, whose brands include Ambrosia, Oxo and Hovis, lost £23m in the first half of 2013 and has nearly £1bn of debt after grossly overpaying to buy Hovis some years ago. Its ad budget is around £20m but it also has to contribute substantial sums to supermarkets to get its products listed.

Which may be why it cooked up this this barmy scheme to ask agencies to bung it some money. Unfortunately, unlike the supermarkets, its market power is clearly limited.

It will be interesting to see which media agency, if any, decides to prostrate itself before the mighty Premier. It will hardly be a PR triumph for anyone who does.

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