Art & Commerce: A FORUM FOR OPINION ON CREATIVITY, MANAGEMENT AND FINANCE

First Contact
The Delta review is beginning to take more twists and turns than a stunt pilot.
Last week, the initial contenders, Leo Burnett, TBWA/Chiat/Day and incumbent Saatchi & Saatchi, were busy calculating new odds for the pitch now that the client had met with two additional shops.
But what made this exercise a bit more interesting was that both late- comers, Grey and J. Walter Thompson, used their relationships with Delta board member Ed Artzt to muscle into the review.
Grey CEO Ed Meyer worked with Artzt when the latter ran Procter & Gamble. Same goes for JWT’s Charlotte Beers, who developed her ties to Artzt when she was running P&G shop Tatham in Chicago.
The new competitors deserve credit for being persistent. And despite concern from some contenders that the playing field was no longer a level one, parlaying past relationships into new business opportunities is a fact of life in this industry and should be expected–if not encouraged.
Interestingly enough, Burnett has been considered a strong candidate because executives at the Chicago shop, it’s believed, know Delta CEO Leo Mullin from the days when he worked at the former First National Bank of Chicago.
Any such connection should be a red flag to contenders who lack similar contacts.
But the emergence of JWT and Beers seemed to be more disconcerting to some because of their history.
Remember when GTE put its $100 million ad account in review back in September 1996? That contest came down to BBDO and Ogilvy, but the latter was widely considered the favorite because of then-chairman Charlotte Beers’ close ties to Artzt, who was serving on the GTE board.
The GTE account, to no one’s surprise, except possibly BBDO’s, went to Ogilvy.
So what should a contender to do when a previous relationship seems to be tipping the scales in someone else’s favor?
“Trust your instincts,” says one observer. “If you think a client sucks, they probably suck. If you feel there’s a connection that will make a difference, there probably is.”
Still, says this agency CEO, that doesn’t necessarily mean you do anything differently. “You just need to be aware of it,” he says.
Often, contenders will ring up the potential client and inquire about the fairness of the process. But that seems to be a waste of time. Who has ever heard of a single example in which the client has admitted that he or she had planned to conduct a rigged review?
So even as the new field of contenders were sizing each other up, the bookmakers changed the odds again.
Late last week, JWT decided it would withdraw from contention.
Sources cited an influx of new business from Miller and other clients, plus a short timetable, as the official reason. (The latecomers are due to make final presentations with the others at the end of the month.) Or maybe, they just had a less-than- impressive first meeting.
Either way, it just proves the point: You can’t always predict the outcome of these things, let alone each step of the process.