Common sense resolves imagined client conflict

Clients often anticipate conflicts of interest when agencies merge, but they need not lose any sleep so long as common sense prevails.

Working for Procter & Gamble, probably the most security-conscious client in the world, makes me an unlikely candidate to champion the cause of “Chinese walls”. But as the number of media agencies gradually decreases into a few big buying points, clients will have to come to terms with conflicting business in the same building.

The recent merger of Starcom and Motive immediately raised the issue of a conflict of interest between Heinz and United Biscuits on the one hand, and Danone and Golden Wonder on the other. Strangely, no one from either agency could be found to comment on the clash. Presumably, delicate negotiations have already started with all parties.

But why should this be the case? Every advertiser is a media competitor to P&G’s Fairy Liquid. We are all fighting for the same spots and spaces, and we all want the lowest price. It is not in my interest to let anyone know my strategy. If I’ve found a good solution to a media conundrum, I want to keep it to myself.

Clients may worry about secret relaunches being discovered by rivals, but it is in my interest to protect this information. And protect it I do.

I’m in the fortunate position of having an office with a lockable door, but even those working in an open plan environment can be secure. A clean desk policy is easy to introduce: threaten someone that anything left on their desk will be put in the bin and see how clean the office suddenly becomes.

Lockable filing cabinets are easy to purchase at most furniture shops. Nowadays, computers generally have sophisticated password access. Booking and accounting systems, such as Donovan Data Systems, are also log-on- and password-sensitive.

If the client is still worried, you can always play the geography card – house the teams on different floors. Frankly, there is more danger of information escaping through an awards entry judged by the managing director of a rival agency.

Then there is the big issue of what constitutes a clash. Conventionally, this seems to have been based on the idea of products competing for the same pound. So Coca-Cola is seen as clashing with Sunny Delight, for obvious reasons. But in a shop I might decide to quench my thirst with a Calippo (English Walls as opposed to Chinese walls) – probably not seen as a client conflict problem.

Airline businesses only conflict if they compete on the same route. Similarly, a Rolls-Royce probably doesn’t conflict with a Mini. Would an agency be unable to work on Spillers Homepride Sauces and Mars Confectionery because different parts of the parent companies also make petfoods?

It’s all become so complex that my solution would be to ignore the whole area and trust agencies to apply common sense to the conflict issue.

However, if any of the aforementioned clients wants a new agency, MediaCom TMB will be glad to talk to them. Except Golden Wonder, of course – I think it clashes with Pringles.

Neil Ivey is director of P&G business at Mediacom TMB

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