Now Asda reviews from embattled AMV BBDO

Asda is reviewing its ad account at AMV BBDO – which won’t surprise anyone as it produced the clunker of 2020 with its dire campaign featuring one Sunny and his family – with an estimated media spend of £100m.

It’s another huge setback for AMV, until a few years ago the stately galleon that had sit atop the UK’s table of top billing agencies for decades, with usually decent work to boot. Last year AMV lost Pepsi-owned Walkers followed by some other Pepsico brands, and longstanding client BT. Asda had only been there two years after AMV lost Sainsbury’s, another foundation client. All this is rather akin to someone running off with the family silver.

CEO Sarah Douglas, who took over from long-serving Cilla Snowball (chairman Snowball became CEO too when Ian Pearman departed ) and her team clearly have work to do – given the chance. Global BBDO boss Andrew Robertson, who began at AMV in the David Abbott era, and even Omnicom boss John Wren will be perturbed.

But they can’t escape some blame for AMV’s rapid (and surprising) fall from grace. Even the most seemingly seaworthy agencies often fail to navigate a change of location. AMV’s misfortunes seemed to start when Omnicom moved it from London’s Marylebone Road to the South Bank, a happening enough area but AMV was shoehorned into a vast new building that also housed TBWA, Proximity and lots of other Omnicom bits besides.

At first AMV was on two huge separated floors until the managers intervened. On one visit I paid there there were builders beavering away in one corner of a vast open plan floor. Peter Mead, one of the founders, had insisted on his own bit of privacy.

Interestingly adam&eveDDB, also offered space in this vast and soulless tomb, declined. A&E took over from AMV as the UK’s biggest creative agency last year and, presumably, will be even further ahead this year.

Now it’s clearly ridiculous to see ad agencies as flowers so delicate they can’t be moved from one window box to another. It often happens though. JWT was never the same after it moved from Berkeley Square, Ogilvy was shipped out to even more soulless Canary Wharf for a decade or two. MAA’s late partner Paul Simons, when he was Ogilvy’s executive chairman, even had a hole dug in the floor in a desperate attempt to bring two very large bits together.

As for Asda – now under the improbable rule of two garage tycoons and US private equity – it should be spoilt for choice. Before it went to AMV it lodged at Saatchi & Saatchi, who’ll fancy another go. Saatchi also won BT from AMV.

Of Shoreditch’s finest, Wieden+Kennedy has Sainsbury’s but Mother (from memory) has never had a supermarket although it’s dabbled with department stores. Uncommon Creative Studio and New Commercial Arts are both free, as they used to say in ‘Are You Being Served?’ Uncommon has shown recently that it can churn out a range of decent ads for lots of different clients (including retailer B&Q) as well as grab headlines. NCA’s James Murphy and David Golding worked on John Lewis and Waitrose at A&E and, before that, M&S at RKCR/Y&R.

We noted the other day the opportunities suddenly created for the new breed of creative agencies with big domestic accounts DFS and Moneysupermarket on the loose. Asda is the same but (potentially) bigger.

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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.

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