OgilvyOne's loss of the News UK business just days after the British Airways CRM account found a new home lays bare the challenges an agency - and a holding group - faces when one of its most talented and totemic individuals is given a leg up the company's greasy pole.
No-one would deny that Annette King’s promotion to chief executive of OgilvyOne EAME (otherwise known as EMEA in normal corporate circles) and a place on the Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide board was well-deserved.
Having steered OgilvyOne to become one of the most successful customer engagement specialists in the UK, picking up three Campaign Agency of the Year accolades on the way, such recognition and reward for this most competitive and driven leader was entirely appropriate.
The only problem is that, unlike its most famous (if rather over-exposed) work – that infernal Kern gnome – King can’t manage to be everywhere at once and it would appear that this stretch is beginning to show.
The loss of BA was unfortunate for the agency (and a clear triumph for the little-fancied but never-to-be-underestimated Bartle Bogle Hegarty) but is arguably due to the Ogilvy proposition being unable to offer a convincing enough advertising proposition. That WPP’s own Team News unit also decided on a change looks like carelessness on the part of King’s successor, Sam Williams-Thomas.
Unlike that infernal Kern gnome, Annette King can't be everywhere at once and that stretch is beginning to show
That said, it is testament to the strength in depth of WPP’s direct offering (in no small part down to the energetic but still relatively new chief executive Mel Cruickshank) that there was an alternative waiting in the wings in the shape of the reinvigorated – and, dare we say it, potentially interesting proposition – Wunderman ("interesting" and "Wunderman" are two words that you would never have expected to find in the same sentence until recently).
But while this provides some succour to WPP – which at least won’t ultimately lose out in revenue, unlike in the case of BA – it is likely to be cold comfort to King, who was largely responsible for OgilvyOne’s success in the first place. In fact, it’s beginning to look like she is too crucial to the whole enterprise.
In last week’s School Reports, we credited OgilvyOne with managing the process of King’s 2013 elevation pretty well – it’s up to the little-known Williams-Thomas to show that this is still the case and King’s departure is not a mortal wound.
Otherwise, there is the danger that this over-reliance on King at OgilvyOne could lead to client fissures elsewhere – and where there isn’t a suitable alternative such as Wunderman available to help pick up the pieces.
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