The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) has revealed that M&C Saatchi has been working as its advertising agency since February. M&C is also one of the five agencies shortlisted for the 16m account.
The NMEC is the public body set up to run the Greenwich-based millennium celebrations, and it says M&C was brought in at the same time it hired Bill Muirhead, a partner with a 20 per cent stake in M&C, as acting communications director (MW February 14). It refuses to rule out the possibility of the agency being hired for the account when the pitches take place next month.
Muirhead could stand to make substantial personal gain if M&C wins the business.
A spokesman for the NMEC says: “We have been taking interim advice from M&C Saatchi in the absence of a retained agency on an ad-hoc basis. There has not been a formal contract. They have been doing work for us on marketing and advertising advice.”
The company denies there is a conflict of interest in having its acting communications director – who advises on marketing and advertising – also working as a partner in the advertising agency which carries out work for it.
Other agencies on the list for the NMEC account include Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO, TBWA/ Simons Palmer, Ogilvy & Mather and Leo Burnett, although the NMEC refuses to confirm the list.
The revelation comes amid criticism of the way the Millennium Dome builder has conducted the pitch for its account.
The spokesman for the company says: “He [Muirhead] has attended board meetings and given advice on advertising and marketing.” But he says Muirhead had no role in drawing up the shortlist of advertising agencies. Muirhead himself refused to comment and referred enquiries to the NMEC, while no one at M&C Saatchi was available when Marketing Week went to press.