True Snit

Nobody likes to lose. But how a player or team handles a defeat—especially a public and devastating one—tells you far more than you could ever learn by watching them celebrate a victory.

Claiming that the winner cheated hardly ever changes the outcome and what’s worse, it makes you look like a sore loser. While the presidential election may come to mind, I’m referring to True North’s recent whining.

Last week, after the powers that be at TN had digested the crushing loss of their Chrysler business to Omnicom, CEO David Bell fired back: “The client said the review was an even playing field. But we understand from comments made in the press since the review that all along the other team was playing with our guys in their key positions.”

To that charge, Omnicom’s John Wren responded, “There were no meetings between anyone of any authority at Omnicom or BBDO with [Mike] Vogel or anyone else until after Chrysler’s conference call.” Wren is referring to the 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3 announcement by Chrysler.

By last week, TN figured out it looked silly and backed away from any charges of impropriety.

By Tuesday, a TN representative called to “clarify” that TN isn’t accusing anyone of tampering with the process by approaching its people during the pitch. The concern is that BBDO appears to have “promised” to deliver to Chrysler certain FCB executives, namely Mike Vogel, head of the agency’s Detroit operations, to Chrysler as part of its pitch.

Omnicom not only denies this but says neither Vogel nor anyone else from FCB has yet been hired. Though it is known that offers are on the table, contractual obligations are still being discussed.

Why is TN surprised by all this? Chrysler said all along this review was about money and not about finding new agency people to work with. In fact, shortly after the win, Chrysler’s Bud Liebler said he expected people to move between the two agencies.

And last week, Chrysler weighed in on the issue: “We never made it a condition of awarding the agency contract that any person would come along,” but added the representative, “the company wanted the “best and the brightest” to work on their account and understood that either way, people would be moving between the shops.

That makes sense. Wasn’t that clear throughout? Apparently it was to BBDO. Isn’t it sound business to try to recruit the people the client likes? It happens all the time.

Let’s go back to Chrysler’s last huge consolidation when its media buying went to a new unit called Pentacom. Said John Damoose, Chrysler’s vp of marketing, “This will be the premier automotive media buying agency in the U.S., staffed by the very best and brightest people we can find from our current agencies and elsewhere.”

If TN wants to prove that a deal was struck before, good luck. Remember when the Mercedes account moved from IPG’s Lowe to Omnicom’s Merkley Newman Harty? What did Omnicom do? It grabbed the folks who worked on the business before. IPG went ballistic, but it did not get very far. True North should just suck it up and move on.