New Saatchi BA pitch in balance

The New Saatchi Agency will not use True North offices, Publicis’ partners in the US, as part of its deal with Publicis Communication, raising questions about the global reach of the network for its assault on the £60m British Airways worldwide account.

Publicis and True North, formerly FCB, are currently bogged down in the court of arbitration after their international agreement to work together collapsed.

While Publicis is strong in Europe it has just two wholly- owned US offices in New York and Dallas – Publicis Bloom – and an affiliate relationship with the Japanese group DIK for work in the Far East.

“Publicis has strong alliances in all regions,” claims a New Saatchi source. “The agency will be plugging into the Optimedia network, Publicis/FCB Europe’s media buying side, and is confident it will not get tied up in the True North thing. BA has been kept in touch at every stage of the negotiations.”

But New Saatchi also plans to open independent offices in Hong Kong, the US and Australia next month to fill in perceived gaps.

The BA pitch is the most eagerly awaited in the UK this year. Not because it will make a substantial difference to the style of BA’s hallmark advertising but because it represents the first head-on clash between new and old Saatchi.

Last week Saatchi & Saatchi revealed its latest global campaign for BA. The Hugh Hudson-directed TV push, which cost £1.4m in production terms, is supplemented by press and poster executions and will run worldwide for the foreseeable future.

But observers believe it is no longer a foregone conclusion that New Saatchi will win the account. There is even a suggestion that BA could recruit two agencies: one to handle the creative work – either Bartle Bogle Hegarty or New Saatchi – and a second, J Walter Thompson, for its international network.

The pitches have been running all week with JWT first up on Monday, followed by BBH on Tuesday, Saatchi today (Wednesday) and Maurice’s new enterprise on Thursday.

The four-strong list will be reduced on April 25.

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