Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pick and stick

Gosh, the entire advertising industry is buzzing with excitement after the news that Singapore Airlines is up for pitch. It has been what, 35 years since it appointed Batey? Talk about loyalty.

It is rare to find mammoth accounts in Singapore, and it is even more rare to find ones that resist the urge to pick up and flee their agency after a short while to head for somewhere else that charges lower fees or which the client can “work better with”.

One that does come to mind is the Republic of Singapore Navy business which has stayed with Saatchi & Saatchi for over 22 years. The billings for the RSN account are obviously smaller than SIA (ST estimates it’s worth about $50 mil a yr), just based on the fact that one is local and the latter is global, but regardless of size, retaining something for that long is no small feat.

Hats off to Batey for holding on so long, and keeping a steady relationship with their client, and weathering storms together. It’s a shame there’s a chance they may lose the business considering they only have Metro left as a major client but a review after so many years is frankly overdue on SIA’s part.

Also, such is life when the agency lands a solid creative leader like Ng Tian It who signs up for the challenge but who is dealt such a hand even before he commences work officially. Same goes for Alan Fairnington who is also a godsend for the business, and who has only been in his role for a few months.

So Batey’s fate hangs in the balance. Will it win against all the odds? Will WPP throw its full weight behind it to make sure it retains the business? Or even if Batey loses, what steps will Sir Martin Sorrell take to keep the business “within the family”? Or will it all fall apart for what was once the Singapore icon for advertising?

This is like watching a soap opera. Drama lah.

Anyway, I feel we won’t be wondering for too long. An initial question will be answered fairly soon. SIA definitely has an idea whether or not to stop working with Batey. I think SIA would prefer to change agencies so it will get a fresh perspective on its business. And that means Batey enters pitches at an initial disadvantage (even though it has years of experience working with the client).

However, considering the introduction of leadership at Batey, the first presentation by Alan and team should be the deciding factor. If they can successfully wow SIA to giving them a shot at the second round of pitches, then their chances would be close to equal that of other second round suitors.

I have to keep an objective mind on this but I’m secretly rooting for the underdog.


Danny said...

Batey has lost its way. It should have stuck with a strong emotional pull of 'the romance and joys of travel with the Spore Girl' rather than what most other airlines do - seats, food, pricing and ignoring the total sensory experience.

Danny said...

Sensory branding of S'pore Girl reached its zenith by end 1990 when Stefan Floridian Waters was introduced - an aroma for its S'pore Girls' perfume and blending into the hot towels served to passengers before take-off

Discoroach said...

I just can't see Batey retaining SIA.

Regardless of what SIA are saying to Farrington, calling for a review is the airline's way of ending the relationship in the same way Batey was sacked by OCBC - "yeah sure you're invited to the pitch". Yeah right.

Of course, Batey will fight to keep it - what the hell else are they going to do? But WPP won't help because SIA will go to Y&R which means that the cash will still end up with WPP.

Let's be honest, Y&R is a perfect fit for SIA. Y&R is big, reliable, and cheap. Most importantly, they do what they're told.

Ming Yeow said...

SIA is definitely losing mindshare. It used to be well defined as the "experience" airline, but I think danny made a great point about them making the mistake of focusing on features instead of the overall positioning.

Most likely, they fell into the trap of "Ok, so we invested XXX million into this product, how are we gonna market it?"

So they go ahead and focus on seats, food, pricing, etc

Vlad Zucker said...

I am a gonna tell yall wats da future hold for Batey after this SIA pitching 'nightmare' is over. 1) Batey is destined to lose SIA. 2) OK now comes the shocker without beating about the bushes - Batey will have to close shop for good after this pitching episode. I know many will think that they'll struggle and perhaps stay afloat or stick around for sometime, and hopefully some rescuer comes along from other agencies since they are part of some alliance dadidadidaaaa....but having analysed all the agencies here that have closed shop for good and based on Batey's past and present business structure, rationally and spiritually, Batey has lost the life force to drive further in this business. The painful lesson for any agency like Batey's model is simple - the same thing that made Batey's success is also the one to nail its failure.

Vlad Zucker said...

Y&R is among the leading contenders, but so is DDB. But with Y&R and DDB, they both have a few prickly problems which SIA will find very disturbing. These two have a bad habit of filling their ranks with so called experienced people from related accounts once an account is acquired. In other words, infusing stale and recycled stuffs. With many accounts handled between them, SIA will have problem reconciling the idea of what these 2 agencies stand for - at the very worst, SIA might label them as general practitioners of advertising, which stands for nothing special but just account churners. Y&R and DDB will have to shake off a few major accounts or they will find themselves exactly in the same spot Batey experienced when stretched resources caused Batey to bleed and feverishly lose accounts as fast as they gain them. Perhaps this may come as unexpected or remote to many despite what the informal polls may say but Leo Burnett is, by all technicality, the most favourite to lead the competition. Tactically, unloading the McDonald's which is not really margin generating for LB, unleashed the best pool of skills for the SIA tender. Y&R, DDB and the rest of the casual agencies have to put their most intense force into the SIA tender coz by the look of it, LB has the strongest team to pull a jet solid pitch. The reason why so many agencies are in this game is simple. With the exploding China and India economies powering up the rest of Asia, air travel is hitting the high stream. SIA will soon realize that they may have to spend more than $50m because the market size of air passengers and tourist intra-Asia is also exploding. Its not difficult to figure. While there are many who joined the ranks of budget air travellers, many existing budget air travellers are also upgrading to better class and SIA will be pissed if they do not make a killing soon. Well, just my 2 drops worth of blood sucking tips. A....a...a...I'm counting the huge stake. Signing-off: Vlad Zucker a.k.a. Count Dracool.

Saint said...

Will WPP be behind Batey or is the parent company secretly wishing that the account goes to other WPP Agencies and it can finally close Batey's doors.

Its just too late for Batey now to show its worth and SIA have just given too many chances to Batey for its poor performance.

My bet is TBWA as the agency leads worldwide ranking and it does brilliant work. I don't think Y&R or DDB stand any chance because of its massive size of accounts it handles and yes again they are just account churner agency with very fancy terms and rationale. Creatively they re weak and SIA wouldn't just fall for that.

SIA will look for a bigger brand identity one that can image them as a leader without even shouting out loud.

Vlad Zucker said...

I'm not sure if SIA is ignorant enough not to know or hear of the WPP alliance, but SIA having a world-class marketing experience will likewise know what is called a bad after taste. While the idea of an alliance of sorts sounds beneficial to its members, the client that seeks a distinct competitive advantage will suffer from the abundance of bi-products from agency alliance. This is already apparent as many of the sleek and flashy ads are just not moving the consumers anymore. WPP should disband for the sake of its members because the long-term effect of pooling is a lack of desire to seek knowledge and ideas and exploration. Although TBWA looks strong on paper, clients are wary of any agency that top the rank charts because while you can't go up any further, there is always the downhill and a series of unfortunate events that awaits the client. TBWA's chances are remote and it shows in the informal polls. Local talks and buzzes hardly rings about TBWA. What may tip in their favour though is if they pulled off a stunner, like partnering with a local agency for this round of tender. After all SIA is a global brand that sprout out from its root in Singapore, and it will only be advantageous for a potential agency to be seen as having a strong base here. But as in the present context, the chances of partnership between a local and international agency is just as remote. With such intense competition for the SIA account, only the brave and the bold will draw SIA's attention more than the rest.

Discoroach said...

TBWA would be a great selection for SIA creatively, but I just can't see them getting along, nor can I see SIA agreeing to pay top dollar, although they were happy to pay Batey's rates for years.

I still reckon Y&R's low rates and their 'do what the client wants' culture will see them through. Y&R's connections with quasi government accounts like STB, OCBC, SingTel and SingPost will also give SIA lots of comfort.

As for Batey, who knows what WPP will do. The smart thing would be to close it and forget about it. But WPP might use Batey as a shell agency to house conflicting accounts the same way they use David to work on DBS while O&M works on AmEx.

gerald.yeo said...

TBWA won the pitch.