Not all fun and games

Sir Frank Lowe’s return to the fray has the industry rapt as the year ends, but 2005 has been an unsettled time, as new media continues to shake old certainties, and marketers begin to plan for the 2012 Olympics in a city still recovering from terrorist attacks. By Marketing Week reporters

With doom-mongers forecasting an economic slump, tough trading conditions pervading the high street and rocketing energy prices hitting consumers’ pockets, marketers met both triumph and disaster in 2005. The landmarks of the year for the UK were the back-to-back highs and lows of the successful London Olympic bid and the UK’s first suicide bombings, both of which have had their impact on the industry. But it has been a momentous reason for many on the industry for other reasons, too.

Going for gold

The combined clout of Lord Coe; AirMiles and Nectar founder Keith Mills; and former Go airline marketing chief David Magliano was enough to drag London’s Olympic bid over the finishing line, pipping Paris to the prize of the 2012 Games. The result should represent a golden opportunity for all manner of UK-based brand marketers to cash in.

But the victory was almost immediately overshadowed by the bombings in the capital on July 7, which sent shockwaves through the tourist industry and caused twitchy consumers to stay away from major UK commercial centres. The global travel industry had already taken a hit following the Asian tsunami disaster in December 2004.

Another notable marketing maelstrom engulfed the food industry, following the discovery of cancer-causing dye Sudan 1 in products including Crosse & Blackwell Worcestershire Sauce and Unilever’s Pot Noodle. Danone also ran into trouble when a consumer prompted tests that revealed the presence of naphthalene in a batch of Volvic water bottles.

The UK’s biggest football club, Manchester United, faced an uncertain future following a &£790m takeover by US businessman Malcolm Glazer. Glazer, and the brands sponsoring the club, were met with angry protests from fans who have witnessed the fortunes of their team suffer on the pitch.

Death of the television ad?

Adland’s cosy fallback, the 30-second television commercial, experienced further pressure this year. Heinz, Heineken and Superdrug all axed campaigns, worth a total of about &£40m. Toyota GB commercial director Paul Philpott said TV was no longer a “must-have”.

Nor was it a great year for high-ticket celebs. Thierry Henry (Renault), David Beckham (Vodafone) and Sharon Osbourne (Asda), among others, were all removed from TV campaigns. Kate Moss’s contract with H&M also bit the dust, following reports of her alleged cocaine use.

It wasn’t all a turn-off for TV, though, with Sainsbury’s retaining chef Jamie Oliver as the face of its fresh “Try Something New Today” strategy, Honda continuing to reap the sales benefit of its high-profile ad campaigns and commercial TV marketing body Thinkbox gearing up for a push to bolster the small screen.

Meanwhile, the obesity debate raged on, with some MPs calling for a blanket ban on the advertising of “junk” food to children. But Larry Light, McDonald’s retiring chief marketing officer, called for an increase in marketing to children in order to educate them about health issues.

Highs and Lowes

Did any advertising agency endure a more turbulent year than Lowe London? It began well, with the appointment of industry heavyweight Garry Lace as chief executive in January, but drew to a close with the departure of the &£45m Tesco account in December, amid the whirlwind of activity surrounding the return of Sir Frank Lowe to the London ad agency scene.

Besides snaffling Tesco, Sir Frank’s start-up lured Lowe chairman Paul Weinberger, while chief creative officer Matthew Bull quit the UK. Lowe London managing director Mark Cadman had earlier switched to JWT, while a proposed merger with DFGW was pulled, Lowe missed out on the &£140m Omo global account and faces a potential review of Stella Artois.

Elsewhere, British Airways ended its 23-year relationship with the Saatchi brothers by shifting its creative account out of M&C Saatchi and into Bartle Bogle Hegarty. BBH picked up Omo, while M&C must defend its &£100m Dixons Stores Group work.

Former McCann Erickson UK chief Ben Langdon was forced out of Euro RSCG, having been chairman of the London agency for just 17 months. Euro also parted company with Co-op, Argos and Superdrug.

Start-ups and big deals

Sir Richard Branson is selling Virgin Mobile to cable provider NTL, allowing the merged entity to offer “quadruple-play” services: mobile and fixed telephony, broadband and digital TV. NTL had earlier merged with rival Telewest in a &£3bn deal.

As Britvic Soft Drinks floats on the stock exchange, valued at just under &£500m, category director Andrew Marsden is readying the launch of youth-oriented bottled water Drench.

Aegis Media snapped up digital agency Glue London for &£14m, a move that could herald more traditional agencies making online services part of their armoury. Rupert Murdoch seemed to agree, adding gaming and entertainment company IGN, community site owner Intermix and sports specialist Scout Media to News Corporation. Ebay bought Skype, a company that enables PC users to make calls via the internet, and struggling ITV landed Friends Reunited.

While Sir Frank Lowe resurfaced, other adland figures joined the start-up trend. TBWA chiefs Trevor Beattie, Andrew McGuinness and Bil Bungay opened BMB, picking up work from BSkyB and French Connection. Former Ogilvy & Mather UK chief Paul Simons set up marketing services group Cagney, which included Walsh Trott Chick Smith. Lord Bell’s Chime Communications swooped on Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest and the O2 account in June. Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy was sold to Canadian group Cossette for an initial &£7.8m, and later swallowed How and the Waitrose account. John Billett sold his media auditing and marketing consultancy business to Thomson Intermedia, and retail specialist Verdict Research was bought by Datamonitor.

By contrast, direct marketing agency Cramm Francis Woolf and media neutral shop Mercier Gray were forced to pull the plug. Anton Mercier and Rob Gray returned with a new agency called Purity.

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