Vodafone has called a pitch for its direct marketing account in the first stage of what will be one of the biggest agency bunfights of all time – both for direct, digital, ad and media shops – as the mobile phone market consolidates.
AIS London has handled the Vodafone account since 2012, when it picked up the brief without a pitch. The review is being run by AAR. Vodafone handed its £53m advertising and digital business to Grey London in February, ditching incumbent Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. Havas runs the media.
However, with BT hoping to get the green light for its £12.5bn takeover of mobile giant EE by February next year, and Hutchison Wampoa (owner of Three) tabling a £10.5bn bid for O2, there is likely to be a battle royale to grab a slice of one of the most lucrative markets in the world.
EE is currently handled by Publicis Chemistry, Poke, Dare, Saatchi & Saatchi, McCann Enterprise and MEC, while WPP-owned OgilvyOne, AMV and Maxus run the BT business. None of them will go down without a fight.
Meanwhile, Three still has no DM agency after dumping the now-defunct TBCH but its ad, digital and media accounts are with Wieden & Kennedy. O2 is run by Lida, VCCP and Arena. BT’s decision is likely to prompt a rethink of these agency arrangements, too.
Speculation is mounting that BT is growing disenchanted with OgilvyOne, a move which is unlikely to have escaped the attention of new Publicis Chemistry chief Emma Rush, who took over from Mike Welsh in April. She was the boss of TBCH when it lost the Three account so will be keen not to make it two in a row.
Meanwhile, Saatchi chief Robert Senior will be assuring Maurice Levy that he can use all his powers of persuasion to sweet talk BT into moving its business to Charlotte Street. Whether Martin Sorrell will allow that remains to be seen.
The stakes are very high and the holding companies of all the agencies involved will be keeping a close eye on how their respective bosses perform. The losers could soon be looking for new jobs.
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