Sainsbury’s takes dramatic new turn by dropping AMV BBDO for Wieden+Kennedy

It’s somehow typical of British advertising that two of the big reviews of the year are decided in what for many people is a holiday week: earlier this week Marks & Spencer put the kibosh on RKCR/Y&R’s holidays by moving its £60m account to Grey in a closed WPP pitch. Today Sainsbury’s, worth about the same, is ending a 35-year relationship with AMV BBDO (apart from a brief interregnum at M&C Saatchi) by moving to Wieden+Kennedy.

W+K’s win is a satisfying triumph for indefatigable CEO Neil Christie who kept a diplomatic silence when Tesco moved from the independent agency to BBH early last year. W+K had been confounded by seemingly endless marketing changes at Tesco and then promptly dumped when new CEO Dave Lewis was appointed from Unilever.

AMV will feel even more hard done by. Its last two Christmas efforts for Sainsbury’s – a Great War epic in 2015 (below) and Mog the cat last year winning plaudits even from rivals. But it has struggled to replace brand spokesman Jamie Oliver who quit three years ago, a route now being taken by Saatchi & Saatchi with new client Asda and celebrity chef James Martin.

Sainsbury’s marketing director Sarah Warby says: “I’d like to thank AMV BBDO for the enormous contribution they’ve made to our business over many years. This has included some truly iconic campaigns, from Jamie Oliver to recent Christmas campaigns like Christmas truce and Mog the cat.

“We will continue to work closely with the AMV BBDO team over the coming months, including our Christmas 2016 campaign, while in parallel planning the transition. This was a very difficult decision but we felt it was important to get a fresh perspective and I’m delighted to welcome W&K to Sainsbury’s.”

AMV CEO Ian Pearman says: “We couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done with Sainsbury’s and the brand we’ve helped them become. We have loved every minute. They have chosen a very different kind of agency for their next phase of development and we wish them every success in the future.”

Big supermarkets have proved to be the most difficult of clients recently, putting their big creative effort into Christmas and relying on price promotions for the rest of the year. W+K, by the sounds of it, faces a frustrating year while AMV works on another Christmas extravaganza. The theme for this was probably decided even before Mog made his first appearance last Christmas.

AMV, still the UK’s biggest agencxy by billings, will be looking hard for a replacement for Sainsbury’s. Most rivals are with recently-appointed agencies: Aldi has reappointed McCann, Waitrose went from BBH to adam&eveDDB in the wake of BBH’s Tesco win, Morrisons has just hired Publicis and Asda is back at Saatchi.

BBH may be looking a little nervously over its shoulder at AMV. So far it has found Tesco a struggle, as everyone seems to these days.

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