Agencies round on ‘amateur’ NI

News International has been accused of having “no respect for the advertising process” and “amateurism” following the six-month pitch for The Times 7m account.

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe scooped the business after a pitch process involving at least seven agencies. A decision is expected within ten days on The Sunday Times account, which is being chased by Ogilvy & Mather, Publicis, EURO RSCG Wnek Gosper and the incumbent, Arc Advertising. Arc, Publicis and O&M were also part of the final shortlist for The Times.

But some agency heads are angry about the way they have been treated. And the accusations levelled against the Wapping-based organisation appear to be more than just sour grapes.

“This is a classic example of a company that has little or no respect for advertising,” says one agency source. “They see advertising as a commodity, so I probably should not be too surprised. But when you consider agencies are not just suppliers, but double as clients, it is remarkable.”

Seven agencies were originally invited – the above five plus WCRS and Lowe Howard-Spink – to pitch for the combined newspapers account. A shortlist of three was then drawn up, but increased to five when it was decided to make two separate lists for the business.

Competing brand campaigns for both titles were put into qualitative and quantitative research.

News International insisted that all agencies sign contracts allowing the newspaper group to use any creative ideas discussed during the process without any comeback from the agencies. It is not an uncommon procedure but one that the agencies believe will lead to their ideas being used uncredited.

The criticism has been rejected by Times Newspapers marketing director Toby Constantine, who says it is merely “sour grapes”. “We have conducted ourselves with professionalism, paid each agency for the work and then researched the final campaigns before making a decision. Unfortunately, agencies do suffer from sour grapes when they don’t win.”

Rainey Kelly will have to maintain the growth in circulation that has been achieved through price cutting and continue The Times’ attack on The Daily Telegraph’s market leadership. The price war boosted circulation from 354,000 in August 1993 to more than 675,000 last month.

“The Times’ success has re-arranged the broadsheet market,” says Rainey Kelly managing director Jim Kelly. “We look forward to working with the editor and publisher to break through to market leadership.”

It is understood that Rainey Kelly will develop tactical work next month, which will be followed by The Times’ first branding campaign in the spring.

This mirrors the approach of The Telegraph, which has tried to marry tactical and brand campaigns in the past.

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here

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