Why are there so many big agency reviews?

Lots of creative accounts move when a new client comes in. A review is nearly always on the cards even if the business sometimes stays where it was.

But the ad world seems awash with big agency reviews at the moment even if – still in the midst of the pandemic – there isn’t all that much creative advertising going on. The latest off the blocks in the UK appears to be British Airways owner IAG (International Airlines Group.) IAG also owns Iberia and Aer Lingus. plus low cost carriers Vueling and Level.

It says it’s looking for “more alignment” in its agency arrangements. Does this mean one agency or group handling the lot? WPP has most of it following the last review in 2017. BA reviews a lot (although it doesn’t advertise much.) Are they just trying to save money?

Or are most such exercises an opportunity for CMOs and their teams to show they’re actually doing something in a downturn, even though they’re not – for example – flying much. Moneysupermarket and Asda are also reviewing in the UK barely two years after their last contests.

Once upon a time BA was, arguably, the UK’s most prized ad account. From ‘Fly the Flag’ at FCB to ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’ at Saatchi & Saatchi it spent big, with big production budgets and, in the brothers Saatchi case anyway, helped to cement a worldwide reputation. It followed them to M&C Saatchi before landing at BBH where ‘To Fly. To Serve.’ didn’t quite have the same resonance.

Now, though, it’s price-driven like the rest of the airline industry and it’s all about the “customer journey” via the website. Even though that can be pretty gruesome with all of them, even before you’ve stepped on a plane.

When flying resumes, if it ever does, the biggest thing that could make a difference to BA’s business is Virgin Atlantic finally giving up the ghost. Does Richard Branson still have the appetite for finding new partners?

But what’s the role of advertising in this supposed mega-pitch? A positive brand image obviously helps greatly if your customer journey offer is much the same as everybody else’s. Airlines usually only make the headlines if something goes wrong so there’s much to be said for extolling your virtues yourself.

Time for BA to try to recapture the glory days? There are worse ideas.

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