Alfa Romeo is poised to move its £50m pan-European advertising account into the Young & Rubicam (Y&R) network, ending months of speculation about its 18-year relationship with fellow WPP agency United.
Sources say Y&R is close to resolving a conflict with Ford-owned Land Rover that would allow the network to take on the business across Europe. One possibility thought to be under consideration is the formation of a conflict agency called Swarm to be run by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R chief operating officer Tony Harris.
Alfa Romeo’s relationship with United ended during the autumn when it emerged that the Fiat-owned car marque was looking to shake up its agency roster. WPP is thought to have been in talks with the company ever since and was said to be looking at a “Team Alfa” solution similar to the “Team Sky” model which lost out on BSkyB’s £75m advertising business to WCRS. Y&R’s European chairman and chief executive Massimo Costa is believed to have been heavily involved in the negotiations.
Alfa Romeo was a founding client of Conquest, the WPP network formed in 1988, which was rebranded as Red Cell in 2001 and then United in 2005. United lost out on a pitch to launch the Alfa Romeo Brera to start-up Krow last year (MW February 9, 2006). Krow also handles Fiat’s UK advertising business (MW March 23, 2006) and was recently appointed to the £14m pan-European Grande Punto account (MW December 7, 2006). However, Alfa Romeo is thought to favour a network agency as its retained partner across Europe.
No one at Alfa Romeo, Y&R or United was available for comment as Marketing Week went to press.