Agency/client merry-go-round bad for everyone

It's been a frantic period for media agency reviews, pitches and decisions - and there is no sign of this trend slowing as the economic downturn continues to kick in.

Last week, Media Week broke the story of OMD's annexe of the enormous consolidated £650m pan-European Renault-Nissan review; Santander is reviewing its £32m UK planning and buying deal with Carat; Mediaedge:cia has finally won the £14m pan-European MBNA account from BLM Quantum; Vizeum has taken Coca-Cola Enterprises' Appletiser and Capri-Sun from MEC to add to its existing Coca-Cola GB work, as well as winning Carnival Group Cruises from Starcom; Boots has moved from MediaCom to OMD; Mindshare has won Bayer from PHD; eBay is reviewing, so is Vodafone, with incumbent OMD going head to head with Carat again for this £57m UK account, as it did with Renault-Nissan.

Renault-Nissan was a stunning win for OMD, adding £400m in Nissan billings to its existing Renault account, though given the outlook for automotive brands the figure will not end up this high in 2009. Either way, a number of media owners don't relish OMD retaining yet another high-profile account in Vodafone, as they feel it could consolidate too much buying power in their hands - but OMD seems confident of success.

So the agency/client merry-go-round continues and the informed view is that it will continue to spin as clients use the economic downturn to squeeze extra value out of their agencies. Some of the above are pan-European, but many are UK-only and there is no doubt accounts are pitched more regularly in the UK than the rest of the world. The two to three-year statutory review has become the norm, but with the pitch process stretching anything from three to 12 months, that doesn't leave much time to bed in new business or consolidate existing accounts.

The upshot is agencies spend half their time chasing their tails, desperately trying to retain existing business or aggressively pursuing new accounts. The energy and resource required is immense and deflects agencies' attention from providing excellent service to their clients.

One can't help feeling it would be beneficial for all concerned if clients gave their agencies a longer period of grace before they instigate reviews.

Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week

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