Clems shifts troops to .99, prepares for looming Vodafone battle—UPDATED

The big news from the past few weeks was that Vodafone has decided to review its agency partners, which left the role of incumbent Colenso up in the air and led to speculation that a decision had already been made to move the account elsewhere without the agency being involved in a pitch. And while Clemenger Group chief executive Jim Moser admits Colenso is now out of the picture, resources have been shifted to .99, which will be the epicentre of the account for the next three months and is “going to participate aggressively” in the upcoming pitch.

Moser says it’s been four of five years since Vodafone last conducted a review (PR and media is not affected), so the timing is about right. But after talking to the marketing team the focus of the next few months will be on Christmas. As a result, there will be less brand work to be done and more retail work and .99 is better suited to be the management hub.

The contract with Vodafone, he says, is with the Clemenger Group, not just Colenso, so he says he’s listened to what Vodafone wanted and moved troops to where they’re needed most in an attempt to better serve its needs while it still has the business and, more importantly, improve its chances of retaining the account when it goes to pitch.

This decision means there will be eight redundancies at Colenso (he says they wanted to keep some in the group, but they chose to take redundancy instead) and 12 people have been moved from AIM Proximity and Colenso to work at .99 on Vodafone.

“We’ll participate in this pitch. And we’ll win it,” he says. “It’s not going to be easy. But we know this business. And we’re good at it.”

We mentioned a year or so ago when .99 retained the New World account that there was some speculation Vodafone could eventually head the same way as Air New Zealand. We received a few stern phone calls from the Colenso bods saying that wasn’t the case for our trouble. And while Moser admits .99 did very well during the recession as clients were looking for short-term sales increases, he doesn’t think the brand/retail hybrid snatching business off its more creative sibling could be considered a trend. As he points out, Colenso has also had its biggest period of growth in the past three years, so there seems to be room for both models.

Despite some friendly rivalry between the two agencies in the past, Colenso will offer assistance if it is required during the pitch, so that having much knowledge should make it a good contender.

Still, you can play a good game and lose and BBH lost the Vodafone account in the UK in June because of a global supply chain agreement. It was then pitched among WPP agencies, so that trend might continue here.

It appears the original rumour that Origami, which already works on Vodafone projects, and DraftFCB, which probably won’t be in the good books with its newish telco client Orcon, were involved in the first round of pitching was correct. But it’s not known if they’re in the next round.

UPDATE: The local WPP agencies consist of Y&R, Ogilvy, JWT and BCG2 (20 percent stake). It’s unsure if they will all be putting their hands up, but Assignment Group, which has a connection to JWT, is apparently staying away due to its work with TelstraClear.

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