McCann surrenders in fight over US Army account – will WPP’s Possible stay the course?

Interpublic’s McCann has run up the white flag in its long-running dispute with the US Army, first over its decision to fire McCann and then award the business (said to be worth $136m in revenue over ten years) to Omnicom’s DDB.

The agency filed for its claim to be dismissed by the US Court of Federal Claims late last week.

WPP’s Possible (now part of Wunderman) still has a complaint on file and this is due to be heard in March.

McCann and Possible both seem to contend that DDB couldn’t possibly do all the things the pitch required for the money it’s charging. This does, of course, rather assume that the way big agencies have done things in the past is the only way they can be done in the future. These days the key component of such pitches are the numbers of people and their costs needed to service the account. If you have a different structure – presumably – it can cost less. “Better, faster, cheaper” is today’s mantra, promoted by former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell at his new entity S4 Capital and by You & Mr Jones’ David Jones (who seems to have got there first in earlier utterances) when he recently bought in-house studio operation Oliver.

It’s a shame, though, that McCann has pulled out as court documents and any hearing would have revealed what agencies charge – including in all likelihood DDB. Owner Omnicom seems to have decided that the world has turned and it will bend to clients. DDB recently retained Volkswagen’s European creative account, reportedly at a much lower fee.

It will be interesting to see if WPP and Possible stay the course. Such legal challenges rarely change the outcome of pitches although they can delay the evil day when the account leaves. It certainly did for McCann with the US Army, for years.

Some years ago WPP challenged the then Central Office of Information’s (COI) decision to move its £140m media account to Densu Aegis’ Carat. That didn’t work either.

This is an updated version of an earlier story.

Update 2

No it won’t. WPP’s Possible has dropped its claim. Dear oh dear.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.