's woes are not with its advertising - they are of its own making

Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee

The review and Marc Pritchard's intervention at ISBA Conference shows how blaming agencies is always the easy option.

Having warned investors last week that growth at would be slow this year, its new chief executive, Mark Lewis, did what new chief executives usually tend to do – he called a review of its advertising account.

This was despite Lewis also admitting that at the root of its woes was its fundamental offering, and that the company needed to spend millions redesigning its services, adding new features and reworking its price comparison service. There was no mention of anything wrong with the advertising.

Mother, which has held the account for seven years, has every right to feel aggrieved by what looks like a kneejerk reaction to the market’s response to Lewis’ financial update, which saw its shares fall by nearly 14%.

In its seven years on the account the agency has not only consistently produced some of the most distinctive, fun and creative advertising in that category – or any category, for that matter – but has also contributed to a more than doubling of its share price. Over the same period, pre-tax profits have increased four-fold. It’s little wonder, then, that was a very close contender for 2017 Campaign of the Year in this publication.

The price comparison website category is a saturated one, and one in which saliency is of crucial importance. Despite having a budget that is a fraction of the market leader – – Millward Brown reported its Skeletor campaign was in the top 2% of the most engaging ads ever recorded.

In short, Mother made distinctive (can anyone remember the campaign by Dare that preceded it?) and profitable. Its reward? Being dumped by the brand. No wonder it isn’t repitching, but at least it has set the creative bar ridiculously high for any agencies that choose to do so.

Elsewhere, Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard was giving the advertising industry the wisdom of his knowledge of agency structures at the ISBA Conference, like some sort of guru. While they were forced to sit there cravenly listening to his criticisms – unsurprisingly given he controls vast budgets which they are desperate to get their hands on – privately some were less than impressed.

After all, other than with a few well-publicised exceptions, P&G isn’t known for producing the most creative advertising in the UK. Instead it has largely stuck to its traditional, rather staid roots that have arguably changed little since the 1950s. Agency insiders say it is this intransigence, rather than the structures of agencies, that are its real problem. 

But, as history shows us time and time again, blaming the agency is always so much easier, isn’t it?

Jeremy Lee is a contributing editor at Campaign

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