The year began with the news of some mammoth account movements – Colgate Palmolive being the biggest at the time. First the corporate major moved its media business by taking it out of TME and parking it in MEC (earlier known as Mediaedge:cia). At the time, the official statement was that after the global realignment of the business with MEC in 2004, the move took place in India six years later due to new contractual agreements that came in play in 2010. Unfortunately, there has been very little elaboration on the nature of these “new contractual agreements”.
Even as the dust was settling on this, two weeks back, Colgate Palmolive’s creative business was moved out of Rediffusion Y&R. WPP has created a special unit for the business, which would be housed in Bates 141. The development would effective in October 2010. Given the sheer size and respect of the business, this was very good news for Bates 141 and MEC, and bad news for the Rediffusion Group.
One would wonder what led to this move. Can WPP just decide to move a business and move it? Yes of course, as long as the client is on the same page and perhaps more easily when it is shifting the business between its own agencies. I repeat the perhaps, because it is never easy to just move businesses given the strings attached. The Colgate case becomes interesting because WPP is only a minority partner in the Rediffusion Group. For the sake of the relation, it would be much tougher to move the business without giving the impression that WPP is losing interest in the businesses where it has a minority stake. Is that an area of concern though when the client in question is Colgate Palmolive? Probably not.
One thing is for certain – someone sitting in the WPP headquarters is monitoring WPP’s relations and international client businesses very closely. This simple move of Colgate has suddenly added significant muscle to two wholly owned WPP companies, and that means more for the company at the end of the day. Whether WPP had a role to play in it or not but the conversations of Airtel consolidating its creative business with JWT India too is good news for the company. And these are wins without pitches.
There also are some unpleasant questions that come in the wake of such moves. For instance, what of the teams that were working on Colgate in Rediffusion and TME? A pitch process is a warning bell of sorts but in such cases, are the teams sensitised enough? Who is the point person who ensures the building of a new relation both from the client and the agency sides?
If there was anything that could be more frightening than the incessant pitching that was seen in the year, it is a move like Colgate. It is not a win-win-win situation. And it is difficult to understand why the loser lost...