Who wants the untreatable Thames Water account?

Now here’s a challenge for one lucky agency: improve the image of Thames Water (the company that’s currently telling Londoners to use less water – as it’s hot.)

Thames Water is looking for a new agency with eight on the shortlist. It’s not clear if incumbent M&C Saatchi is one of them. M&C was reportedly hired in 2020 to “increase brand advocacy, change behaviours and support major infrastructure projects.” Not entirely clear how it was supposed to achieve the latter – give the boys and girls a digger?

British water companies are a national scandal, the Environment Agency (rather belatedly) has given them the most damning of reports. Mostly owned by overseas investors and so-called infrastructure investors (like that national treasure Heathrow Airport) they borrow billions to cut their tax bills and return to investors (£53bn in dividends since privatisation according to the FT) and spend less on much-needed improvements than they did 20 years ago.

In the meantime they’ve been shovelling billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the ocean. Only 16% of British beaches are deemed safe for swimming. Some of the bosses earn £3m plus. They are, quite literally, taking the piss.

Hampstead and Highgate Express

Thames Water, which received a whopping fine a couple of years ago, has been (belatedly again) digging up London to try to show it’s doing something. Often, in our neighbourhood anyway, the same bit of road several times. They even have a sign by their holes now telling us they really are working on something, even if there’s nobody in a high viz jacket anywhere to be seen.

Good luck to whichever agency gets this rather dirty job.

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About Stephen Foster

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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