"The review will be completed by mid-October 2011." Those were the words used in a statement sent by Vodafone in late July last year after it decided to shift from its agency of four years Colenso and move the troops up the road to .99 during the RFP process. Now, almost seven months later, and after a pitch was held in December, no decision has been made. So what gives?
Sarah Newcombe, Vodafone's head of company communications, says "there's nothing to say yet" and promised to tell us when there was, although she gave no specific date. When we asked why it was taking so long to make up its mind, she said it's part of an international process and it was "important we get the right agency". She then called back soon after talking to the marketing team and said she might have something to tell us in a few weeks.
As far as we're aware, there are three agencies in the running: DraftFCB, Ogilvy and .99, which is thought to have been told they'll need to keep resourcing the account until March.
No-one from these agencies, who were thought to have spent serious six figures on the pitch, would talk about the presumably rather torturous delayed decision, aside from saying they haven't heard anything.
As mentioned when the RFP was announced, Vodafone has a global alignment with WPP network. If .99 or DraftFCB, which recently won another big piece of business in Air New Zealand, was recommended by the locals ahead of WPP agency Ogilvy, trying to convince the international bods it was worth forgoing this global alignment, a la Cadbury and DDB last year, would seem to be logical cause of the delay.
But given the size of the account (Vodafone spent $20.2 million on advertising in 2010 and $9.5 million to the end of June 2011, according to Nielsen AIS data) and the impact it will have on the winning and losing agencies' staff numbers and workload—not to mention their current inability to pitch for other accounts because they're unsure if a beast is soon to come into the stable—it seems unfair to leave the competing agencies hanging on for so long. And not a particularly good way to start a relationship.