M&C Saatchi has reappointed former Lida planning chief Rich Edwards in a move which would suggest the agency is taking steps to strengthen its grip on the O2 business, following the merger with Virgin Media and the potential for a mega review.
Edwards was most recently executive strategy director at Iris, where he built and ran the integrated strategy team in London, and led the development of the agency’s approach to customer and brand experience.
As part of the role, he oversaw customer, loyalty, digital and innovation strategy for KFC, and also led planning for clients including Formula E, Suzuki and Haven Holidays.
Edwards previously spent nearly eight-and-a-half years at former M&C Saatchi Group customer agency Lida, which merged with M&C in January 2020, holding various account handling and planning roles between 2004 and 2012. Crucially, he knows O2 inside out, having been part of the original pitch team that scooped the business back in 2011.
In his new job as head of planning for the O2 account, Edwards will work to further strengthen the agency’s customer proposition, and will take the lead on strategy, in an effort to create and maintain valuable customer relationships.
Edwards started his career in a brand management role at LV= and has also spent time at agencies RKCR/Y&R and Blast Radius.
The move follows the appointment of Ogilvy’s Chris Jones to M&C Saatchi as managing partner for the O2 business.
The former head of brand and online at Axa has also worked at Ogilvy One, Kitcatt Nohr Digitas and Archibald Ingall Stretton (which previously handled O2), working with brands including Apple, John Lewis, Samsung and Starbucks.
M&C Saatchi chief executive Camilla Kemp said: “We’re delighted that Rich has chosen to return to the M&C Saatchi family. Not only does he have deep customer expertise, but he also brings a much broader, more connected view of communications, which will help us to bring brand and customer thinking together for our clients.
“Like Chris Jones, who became part of the team earlier this year, Rich is joining at a hugely important time for O2, and he will play a pivotal role in building on its commitment to be customer-first as it joins forces with Virgin Media.”
Edwards added: “Having been part of the pitch team that originally brought O2 to M&C Saatchi Group, it’s fantastic to be working with the brand again at such an important moment for their business.”
The merger of O2 and Virgin Media brings together O2’s 34 million mobile network customers with Virgin’s 5.3 million broadband, pay-TV and mobile users.
Virgin Media’s CRM account has been handled by Rapp for over a decade, while Adam & Eve DDB scooped the ad business from BBH in 2019 and OMD UK retained the media brief.
The O2 CRM brief, held by M&C, was up for review last year but it was postponed due to Covid. VCCP has run O2’s advertising since 2002, and its CRM agency VCCP Me has worked on certain elements of the business in the past. Havas handles media, alongside an in-house division called Team O2.
All incumbent businesses have had months to get in shape; the proposed merger was first announced in May last year.
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