If it isn’t one thing it’s another – problems for CHI as Argos and TalkTalk battle rising storms

At this time of year you’d expect to find CHI boss Johnny Hornby happily potting pheasants in the country.

But Johnny will have a couple of other things in his mind: big client Argos’ warning of a disappointing Christmas and the tsunami engulfing another client TalkTalk as a hack attack reveals the one-time Carphone Warehouse owned broadband operator to be even more dependent on sticking plaster than the UK’s other, better-funded broadband operators.

Carphone Warehouse, now part of Dixons Carphone, was CHI’s founding client, partly through the friendship between Hornby and Carphone founder Charles Dunstone. Dunstone was a shareholder in CHI, maybe he still is. CHI is now 49 per cent owned by WPP.

But CHI will one day have to compete for the combined Dixons Carphone business against Dixons’ formidable AMV BBDO. It’s already seen much of its Carphone budget depart to Brothers and Sisters’ Keith Lemon online channel.

In the digital age disasters strike very quickly. TalkTalk will find it very hard to recover from this debacle. CEO Dido Harding was humiliated in the media today because she just couldn’t say why TalkTalk hadn’t encrypted users’ essential information. She knew, as we all did, that it was because it cost too much.

None of this is CHI’s fault. On the upside Argos has said it’s going to spend heavily to boost online sales on ‘Black Friday,’ November 27. But that hasn’t stopped some analysts – we should bear in mind former chancellor Nigel Lawson’s description of them as ‘teenage scribblers’ – writing off Argos’ prospects.

Notions that CHI might be parachuted in to ‘save’ RKCR/Y&R – which has just lost the Lloyds Bank business to adam&eveDDB – should perhaps be put on the back burner. Hornby and co. have other things on their mind.

Mind you I did hear that some CHI people (not Hornby) were involved in the Lloyds pitch. Which was led, it seems, by WPP creative supremo John O’Keefe.

But for now it’s all hands to the pumps.

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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.