A little chilling out needed over account conflicts

On page one of this issue is the story of how Sprint Canada and BBDO Canada, the telco's AOR for all of the last month or so, parted company over a rather tenuous account conflict: BBDO's Quebec affiliate PNMD handles work...

On page one of this issue is the story of how Sprint Canada and BBDO Canada, the telco’s AOR for all of the last month or so, parted company over a rather tenuous account conflict: BBDO’s Quebec affiliate PNMD handles work for QuebecTel, a smallish regional telco being taken over by big-time Sprint competitor BCT.Telus. While BBDO president Mike Fyshe claims it was his agency, and not Sprint, that initiated their parting of the ways, the split does raise some interesting questions about how to manage such conflicts when they arise, without throwing either the agency or the affected client into turmoil.

With consolidation the order of the day in the ad business and in many client sectors, especially among multinationals, the potential for sudden new conflicts arising is greater than ever. Add in the continuing trend toward vertical business diversification (that is, retailers getting into banking; banks getting into auto leasing; automotive companies getting into online retail, etc.) and the distinction about what actually constitutes a conflict and what doesn’t becomes decidedly blurry.

The challenge here for clients is to feel confident that when they choose an agency they’re going to get some stability on the account – at least long enough to develop some meaningful and effective advertising and marketing ideas and put them into play. It’s a well-documented fact that the best, most fruitful client/agency relationships are those that are based on trust and mutual understanding – something that can hardly exist if the spectre of one or the other party upping and leaving at any time hangs over everyone’s heads.

Talking to a few senior agency types, the solution seems abundantly obvious: Clients need to relax a little and trust their agencies to preserve and manage the integrity of their account. They say clients have to realize that some conflicts are simply unavoidable, but that agencies are generally willing to do whatever it takes to protect the client’s interests. The most often cited example is the building of so-called "Chinese walls", in which certain account groups within agencies are expressly forbidden to have any interaction with the other. That’s just one possible remedy. There are obviously many others, including (one would imagine) some that haven’t been widely discussed in an open industry forum.

As the prospect of new account conflicts appears to be growing throughout the marketing industry at large, Strategy would like to encourage some debate and discussion on the issue. If you have strong feelings on the matter, one way or another, I’d like to invite you to send me your thoughts via e-mail and I’ll publish some of the more insightful replies in this space in an upcoming issue.

David Bosworth


From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group