20m Abbey National blow casts doubt on Barker & Ralston’s future

Barker & Ralston could be put up for sale after losing its 20m Abbey National business to EURO RSCG Wnek Gosper. The loss of nearly two-thirds of its billings has led the agency, which was set up six years ago, to implement a review of its str

Barker & Ralston could be put up for sale after losing its 20m Abbey National business to EURO RSCG Wnek Gosper.

The loss of nearly two-thirds of its billings has led the agency, which was set up six years ago, to implement a review of its strategy. This could include it being sold off or converted into a marketing consultancy, according to managing director Derek Ralston.

Barker & Ralston has been trying to tie-up a deal with McCann-Erickson to use McCann’s inter- national network for its overseas business, though no agreement has been made and a deal looks increasingly unlikely.

The agency is left with only four clients – off-licence chain Thresher, Beck’s Bier, Gallo wines and HPI Equifax – which adds up to total billings of a little over 10m. It lost its 8m Saab car account to Lowe Howard-Spink last summer.

Barker & Ralston will have to make some of its 28 staff redundant, though it is understood a number will be re-employed at EURO RSCG to work on the Abbey National business. For the time being, creative director David Barker says the agency will continue looking for new business.

Abbey National is moving its business following the appointment of a new director of consumer marketing, Sara Weller from Mars, at the end of last year.

Weller says: “It is greater evidence of developing Abbey as a brand, and it makes it more important to have one agency rather than a range of products and services.”

The move to consolidate the business comes as Abbey faces increased competition from rival building societies which are preparing to convert to banks. The Halifax will be the second major building society to go for a stock market listing, in June.

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