Does Harvey Nichols’ abandonment of adam&eve signal watershed for creative agencies?

There’s nothing unusual about a company firing its agency following the appointment of a new marketing boss and the posting of a thumping great loss.

Especially when the client in question canned its traditional Christmas campaign.

But upscale store group Harvey Nichols’ decision to dump adam&eveDDB, its agency of 17 years and one which has won a bucket of awards on the account – including a pretty amazing six Cannes Grand Prix.

This is likely to prompt a scratching of heads across adland, with some seeing it as a further sign that the great days of creative agencies are well and truly over. If A&E, which has seemed to defy gravity, can’t keep such a client then who can?

Deborah Bee, who’s moved from rival Harrods, is the assassin in question, telling the agency over the phone. We’ve yet to hear from her while A&E CEO James Murphy says: “This is sudden news and it’s sad news.” Yes and no, sad yes but the absence of a Christmas campaign would have set alarm bells ringing. The news that Harvey Nicks lost £6.7m last year, which it blamed partly on a store refurbishment, meant that the posh Knightsbridge retailer, would have to pull in its advertising horns at the very least.

Does this men that even the best advertising can’t do the trick any more? Not necessarily as Harvey Nicks’ moving from a £3m profit in 2016 to a £6.7m loss suggests a structural malaise which may or not be remedied by the store revamp. The company is also joining the Farfetch luxury platform, a UK website whose partners include Burberry and Chanel. Farfetch is gearing up for a stock market listing at a pretty far-fetched valuation of up to £4bn. It may soak up some Harvey Nicks resources.

Harrods, Bee’s former residency, used to be famous for its advertising through Leagas Delaney but has concentrated on other things since. So it may be that there won’t be another creative agency on the Harvey Nicks case now.

If Bee does appoint someone else the bar will be set pretty high. You can bet that the rationale will have data in it somewhere.

This is an updated version of an earlier story.

Back to top button