All hands on deck as Vodafone chooses agency wish-list

The credentials phase for the Vodafone pitch is over and, just like Tourism New Zealand, it seems the potential suitors have been whittled down to four: Ogilvy, DraftFCB, .99 and Affinity ID/Federation. 

News that Vodafone and Colenso BBDO had parted ways popped up in early August and Clemenger Group duly shifted resources to .99 to handle the account during the RFP phase. Rumours were circling that DraftFCB, which had only recently won the Orcon account off Special Group, was involved in an initial pitch for the business, along with Origami.

Executive creative director James Mok wouldn’t comment on the Vodafone pitch or the agency’s relationship with Orcon, but Orcon has confirmed the account has been resigned. It’s a risky move, but it makes sense when a juicier slab of business is up for grabs and it makes even more sense given DraftFCB is on a roll, with its Genius promotion for Orcon almost too successful for its own good and a big haul at the Effies for its social marketing efforts. Plus, Orcon is renowned as a fairly difficult client.

An interesting aspect of this pitch is that there appears to have been a global alignment with Vodafone and WPP agencies in some major overseas markets. In New Zealand that’s Ogilvy, Y&R and JWT, but a pitch between those three could have been slightly farcical.

Ogilvy’s executive director Paul Manning wouldn’t talk, citing a confidentiality clause, but Ogilvy has a history of servicing big, complex accounts and has plenty of wind in its sails after a few big account wins. Still, as everyone saw with the DDB vs Saatchi & Saatchi saga during the Cadbury pitch, New Zealand is often a different kettle of fish because of its diminutive stature, so global alignments certainly don’t mean it’s assured and, if it was, it would be unfair on the other competing agencies.

As for Clemenger Group, chief executive Jim Moser was confident he’d be on the winning side back in August. “It’s not going to be easy. But we know this business. And we’re good at it,” he said. But given the recent attention Vodafone has received from the ASA and the Commerce Commission for misleading and irresponsible advertising, you do wonder if Clems might have burned their bridges on this one.

Affinity ID’s Angela Day said “she’d probably have to no comment that one” when asked about the rumoured joint indie effort with Federation. Affinity ID is particularly strong, with an impressive client list and a good run on the awards front of late, but it remains to be seen whether Vodafone will be patient enough to wait for a smaller agency like Federation to grow or whether it wants some agency firepower straight away.

A decision is expected to be made before Christmas.

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