Grey snatches £60m M&S from Y&R in WPP pitch

Winning or losing a big pitch can define an agency and Grey’s win of £60m Marks & Spencer’s creative account from WPP sibling RKCR/Y&R in a closed pitch may have a lasting effect on both. Grey has also won M&S digital, the first time the two accounts have been placed together.

Y&R has shown signs of revival under new CEO Jon Sharpe and it has also made some senior hires, most notably Jonathan Burley as its new ECD from CHI. But retaining M&S, its biggest account following the loss of Lloyds Bank to adam&eveDDB last year, would have been valuable evidence that the new team (Burley has only just arrived) could hack it in the upper echelons of London adland.

For Grey, hit by high profile chairman and ECD Nils Leonard’s decision to launch his own agency with two senior colleagues, the win may indicate that Leonard’s decision was just a bump in the road that has taken Grey from a dull albeit efficient network agency to be the shining light in WPP’s UK line-up.

Grey CEO EMEA David Patton says the win shows Grey London’s new management “has hit the ground running. To have a business as significant as M&S put its faith into (the new) team, from day one, is incredibly gratifying.” It seems that the new top combo of CEO Leo Rayman, a former planner, and ECD Vicky McGuire wowed M&S.

Y&R CEO Sharpe says: “It’s undoubtedly sad to have to part ways with M&S after a glorious 16-year creative partnership. Our iconic work for M&S defined an era, but we’re also excited to move forward with a raft of new wins, such as TUI, Chanel and Premier League and brilliant new talent.”

This may be overstating matters somewhat: Y&R’s work for M&S Food has indeed been outstanding but the food side of the retail giant performed strongly. Fashion, though, has had its ups and downs; some spectacular work but seemingly remote from the reality of buying clothes in M&S. Y&R might say, of course, that had the fashion ads matched the reality they’d have lost the business much sooner.

Grey will need to grapple with the same problems although having control of digital too should help as M&S tries to gets its online offer up to scratch. You still feel that M&S needs more radical surgery on the fashion/womenswear side than it’s been prepared to contemplate. Current boss is Steve Rowe, an M&S lifer.

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