Lowe in doubt after HSBC loss

The future of ad agency Lowe is under threat following its loss of a major part of £350m HSBC business to WPP Group.

Agency insiders say Lowe, which is owned by Interpublic Group (IPG), could now face a merger with another of IPG’s global agencies, such as FCB Worldwide or McCann Erickson.

A Lowe source says up to 40 people face redundancy at the agency following the loss of the HSBC business. He also speculates that Lowe UK chief executive Matthew Bull may be forced to step down or will be found another role within IPG.

The senior source adds: “This is severe for Lowe. You can’t dress this up as anything but a disaster. The agency is shrinking rapidly and it has happened on Matthew’s watch, even if it isn’t his fault. I’d be surprised if everyone wasn’t looking for jobs. “

He adds it is likely to affect relationships with other clients. Agency sources speculate that Lowe’s grip on Tesco is uncertain, as is its relationship with Unilever. Last year, Unilever moved its £8m pan-European Surf account into Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and recently put its £25m Flora margarine business up for pitch. Lowe also lost the £40m Braun account and was beaten to the £12m Vauxhall Astra launch campaign by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners.

Bull admits the loss of HSBC will be a “big blow” to the agency, but says it is “ludicrous” to think it will mean the end of Lowe.

He also rejects rumours of his imminent departure from Lowe: “I categorically deny any move away from Lowe, for a while at least.”

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