When we asked Spark back in September if its creative account was up for pitch, a spokesperson said no, but said a group of agencies was working on a brand project and they were asked to come back with ideas on a specific problem. But it's thought that pitch process was much bigger than a project, and Shine appears to be the first to benefit from it.
When asked to confirm whether a decision had been made about its agency, Spark's general manager of corporate relations Andrew Pirie said: "Your information is incorrect – the agency review process is still underway. As a consequence, we’ve got no comment to make at this stage."
We called Jason Paris and he said Clive Ormerod, the recently appointed general manager of marketing who spent seven years with Nike (and was meant to start in November) would be in touch. He has yet to respond. But a source close to the business says Shine, which has worked with Spark Ventures in the past and whose owners have an association with Spark through its Spark Lab space in the Seafarers Building they run, has been appointed as the strategic lead on the account and will work on their lead brand platforms, as well as some other projects and initiatives.
Another source says Spark liked Shine's strategic approach but had doubts about its ability to execute, so another agency is set to be appointed to create the advertising and the process to decide on that is ongoing. It's thought to be down to two, DDB and Colenso BBDO. And, in what would have presumably been a hard row to hoe, they say that Shine has briefed both agencies. This scenario isn't out of character for Shine, however, because as its bio says: "We deliver innovative solutions for ambitious brands, which may or nay not include advertising."
While the spokesperson said in September that "we continue to work with Saatchi & Saatchi on a project basis as we have for some time", Saatchi & Saatchi is thought to be out. After more than 20 years together, and a shift in strategy from Spark away from big TV ads that led to a decline in spend, the agency was taken off retainer last year. Saatchi & Saatchi referred questions to Spark.
None of the agency heads thought to be involved in the pitch process were able to be contacted.
Colenso will be confident it can pick up another piece of the Spark business given Clemenger Group agencies already have most of it. Spark recently shifted its direct business from Rapp to Clemenger-owned Proximity. It also works with digital agency Touchcast and media agency Dynamo (which is half owned by Clemenger Group).
On the other side of the equation, DDB Group's Rappsaid goodbye to Spark's direct business and then swiftly picked up the M2 Group business, which is a direct competitor of Spark. So it seems likely that it would need to resign that business if Spark chose DDB as its creative agency.
Given this is one of the bigger pitches of the year, there's been a surprising lack of information about it. But, as one senior industry figure pointed out, that's probably a good sign of Spark's ongoing rejuvenation, "because when a company is demoralised, they leak like sieves".
When Proximity was appointed, Spark's general manager of customer and capability Summer Ormond said it would re-imagine the customer experience by bringing digital and data closer together.
"We have for some time been shifting our focus to digital channels, but with the brand change embedded it’s time to take the next step," says Ormond. "This means using digital technology to totally re-imagine the customer experience we offer—an experience that should be both effortless and inspiring. This new focus will require a more joined up digital and data solution to work with internal technology teams, and so has led us to review our supplier mix."