Now it’s Engine and M&C Saatchi squaring up to BBH for contentious Audi account

And then there were three: incumbent BBH, Engine and M&C Saatchi left standing in the contentious “procurement driven” pitch for Audi UK.

Unusually for such a prestige brand a whole heap of agencies who would normally die for Audi (although maybe not die this much) have pulled out, the latest being VCCP. Mother also spoke to Audi.

The reason seems to be money, not the feeling that BBH hardly deserves to lose its founding and signature account – although that’s maybe a factor too.

Audi owner VW is wielding the axe on its marketing costs: it’s already tackled VW (staying with DDB mostly) and Skoda and its global media buying, a big loss for WPP’s MediaCom which lost out to Omnicom’s PHD. VW has moved to a new WPP construct which seems to be headed by Johannes Leonardo in the US. The emissions scandal which broke in 2016 has cost VW billions with its other brands dragged into it more recently. There’s lots more punishment down the line and making cars has become much more time consuming and hence expensive for VW – with no-one keen to buy its diesels.

But surely VW and therefore Audi should be supporting its brands in these tough times? No doubt it wants to, but for less money.

Engine, which includes the remnants of former BMW agency WCRS, and M&C, now with former Leo Burnett CCO Justin Tindall at the helm, obviously have something to offer. But Audi can’t afford to have another agency drop out of the pitch. That would make it look truly silly.

PS Agency insiders expect the pitch to drag on for a while yet. When Audi went to BBH all those years ago (37) it was a start-up. Adam&eveDDB’s James Murphy and David Golding, well known to VW, are setting up a new agency some time in the not too distant future. Just a thought.

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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.