Saatchi & Saatchi snatches HSBC from JWT – or does it?

Saatchi & Saatchi has bounced back from its loss of the Toyota Europe account to The&Partnership by raiding WPP-owned J. Walter Thompson for part of HSBC’s $400m global ad account.

Saatchi was already on the bank’s roster, handling various asset management brands.

The win is also a feather in the cap for Arthur Sadoun’s new Publicis Communications, part of a rejig of the Publicis empire that puts Communications in overall charge of the French company’s creative agencies. Saatchi London led a Publicis team including DigitasLBi and giant PR outfit MSL. Robert Senior, outgoing global CEO of Saatchi was in charge of Publicis Communications in the UK. HSBC will be handled out of Saatchi’s new Chancery Lane office.

Senior has been succeeded by Magnus Djaba as Saatchi global president (Publicis’ new moniker) and London CEO. Djaba says:”HSBC is at the forefront of change in the fast moving financial services sector and we are delighted and proud to be chosen to deliver that message to global consumers.”

Not so delighted will be JWT Europe CEO Toby Hoare who heads up WPP’s Team HSBC. One can only imagine the reaction of WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell who has seen his giant network lose some substantial accounts recently. It will be particularly painful losing to Publciis Groupe and his ancient rival Maurice Levy.

HSBC’s advertising has floundered somewhat at JWT. Prior to moving there it had been at Interpublic’s Lowe which produced one of the better bank campaigns ‘The World’s Local Bank.’ Unusually for banking this actually meant something. But incoming CMO Chris Clark said that claim was ‘disingenuous’ as it had reduced its country presence sharply in the wake of the financial crisis. Prior to this the bank had ballooned, making some disastrous decisions including buying US sub-prime lender Household in 2002.

So fair enough but the trouble was it couldn’t come up with anything half as memorable under the new agency regime. Search HSBC and you still get “the world’s local bank.”

All eyes will now be on HSBC’s media account, probably the most profitable part of the business. This is handled by WPP’s Mindshare.

Update
Well, well. Here’s a (somewhat) belated statement from HSBC.

Following recent speculation HSBC would like to clarify the position
regarding our advertising agency roster arrangements.

JWT remain valued partners on our global roster of agencies, leading our
efforts in retail banking across key regions and geographies. They have
recently been awarded assignments for two of our key UK sponsorship
properties, British Cycling and the Wimbledon AELTC partnerships.

In 2016, HSBC conducted an exploratory project to look at the future
direction of our overall brand strategy and asked two of our incumbent
agencies, Saatchi and Saatchi and JWT, to look at a strategy-only brief.
Saatchi and Saatchi were asked to develop their proposal further.

In addition, WPP remain a key partner for HSBC globally. HSBC has not moved
any creative assignments from their current agencies.

It could mean everything or nothing. HSBC says it hasn’t moved any advertising from its current agencies but what if Saatchi, following its gain of the strategy brief, goes on to create a new campaign? Which takes over from the old campaign….

And, presumably, HSBC approved Saatchi’s initial press release.

Do we hear the grind of wheels within wheels?

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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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