Vodafone and Colenso on hold as uncertainties swirl—UPDATED

Questions are hovering over the Telecom account as a result of its planned demerger, and there’s some fresh uncertainty surrounding one of its main rivals, with Colenso BBDO’s hold on the Vodafone account seemingly up in the air. 

Clemenger high priest Jim Moser is currently overseas and won’t be back until next week. But managing director Nick Garrett said “as far as we’re concerned, it’s business as usual right now”, with the agency presenting a lot of work for a new brand idea and several briefs currently being worked on.

According to our sources, it all kicked off when Vodafone’s new head of marketing Greg Campbell, who replaced temporary marketing chief Russell Stanners after he took over from Mark Rushworth, came in looking to shake things up and find the best agency for the job. It is thought there was a pitch a couple of weeks ago, with rumoured contenders of DraftFCB, Origami (which has some solid connections to Vodafone) and Colenso. No decision appears to have been made yet and there is a wider industry pitch on the horizon, possibly without any involvement from Colenso or Vodafone’s retail agency Clemenger-owned .99 (new chief executive Craig Whitehead is yet to return our call).

Garrett would neither confirm or deny any of our source’s information. He stuck to the ‘business as usual’ statement and said it would be best to wait for Moser’s return to get an official comment on the Vodafone issue and whether there will be any Clemenger involvement in the business in the future, but it’s safe to assume there is quite a bit of uncertainty there.

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Vodafone is Colenso’s biggest account (it spent $20.2 million on advertising in 2010 and $9.5 million to the end of June this year, according to Nielsen AIS data) and it has had the business for four years, creating notable campaigns like Fold, Symphonia and In with the New.

With 2degrees currently ramping up its post-pay offerings—and increasing its market share—Telecom getting set to embark on a costly split (and possibly even a complete rebrand for the new retail arm) and Vodafone seemingly putting the feelers out for a new agency partner, the telco scene is a very interesting place to be right now.

UPDATED: Vodafone’s head of corporate communications Sarah Newcombe got back to us with this statement.

Vodafone is reviewing its marketing partner relationships and will be inviting a small number of agencies to respond to an RFP.

Chief Marketing Officer Greg Campbell says the review, which began some months ago, will encompass all of Vodafone’s marketing agencies, excluding Spark phd, Spark IQ and Blue Star, which are globally appointed.

“Like any company operating in a highly competitive, fast paced market, we believe it is good practice to review strategic partnerships from time to time.  We started this review some months ago and it is part of our normal cycle of activities.

“Vodafone has a very proud history of innovation in marketing and, together with Colenso as our lead agency, we have sparked New Zealanders’ imaginations with campaigns such as Fold, Symphonia (the text message symphony), and Double Rainbow.

Campbell says Vodafone has enjoyed a very successful partnership with Colenso over the past four years and the companies will be working closely over the next few months as they move through the review.

“We will be looking to all our agencies – across multiple disciplines – to test us as much as we test them in this process, by helping us deliver the sorts of innovative ideas that Kiwis love and expect from the Vodafone brand.”

The review will be completed by mid-October 2011.


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