Why BA’s winner will walk on air

By the time you read this, the result may be known. Never mind. Before the British Airways pitch is consigned to history, it’s worth considering its pivotal influence on all four competing advertising agencies.

BA may not be the biggest UK account (is it really worth £60m?) or the most profitable, but arguably it’s the most prestigious. Nothing less than the British flag abroad: and which other account can make that claim?

This immediately puts J Walter Thompson, the only American agency on the pitch list, in an interesting position. It is the only candidate – other than “old” Saatchi – with genuine logistic strengths in the North American and Far Eastern markets, which are vital to BA’s continuing development as an airline. That is a huge asset. But did its creative proposals scintillate on the day? If it does not win, reaction will focus – fairly or not – upon its creative cutting edge.

For Saatchi & Saatchi, the stakes are pretty obvious. Can it stop the rot, post-Dixons? If it does not retain the account, other major clients may well review. Its salient advantage is also its cardinal defect: it is Saatchi. Competence and a sure grasp of the complexities of the account were apparently well mirrored in the pitch. Subtract from this, however, the defection of key agency personnel basking in the favour of BA’s most senior management. And the most recent BA television campaign, which looks distinctly tired.

Here, of course, is the trump card of Maurice and New Saatchi: an unassailable inside track, supported by fresh creative proposals which were, according to insiders, “superb”. Undoubtedly, this is the account which will determine whether New Saatchi goes global. But the Publicis alliance still looks unconvincing, particularly in those areas where JWT is strong. Add to this BA’s need to appear like Caesar’s wife in reaching a decision and the odds have to look a little longer.

Which brings us to BBH, the dark horse. Like New Saatchi, BBH will be offered a bridge to greater things, if it wins. And if it loses? Of the four, it risks the least; the very fact it was seriously fancied will have added to its reputation. Most surprisingly perhaps, it managed convincingly to bind its Achilles heel – lack of an international network. Several agency “alliances” have been discussed, Lintas among them. But the one intriguing observers is a proposed link with Cordiant plc.

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here