Harvey Nichols Stuns the U.K. Agency World by Moving Its Business to TBWA After 17 Years With adam&eveDDB

New CMO makes a splash in her first weeks

The agency's work won dozens of Cannes Lions. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Harvey Nichols, the British high end retailer whose public image has long been defined by the work of agency adam&eveDDB, made a surprising turn today by naming TBWA\London as its new creative partner.

The move occurred somewhat abruptly and without a review. The company’s incoming group marketing and creative director Deborah Bee had a series of conversations with the incumbent agency, including a face-to-face meeting earlier this week, before officially ending the relationship less than a month into her new job.

Adam&eveDDB chief strategy officer Alex Hesz and others used the news to celebrate a 17-year agency-client relationship that led to many of the ad industry’s highest honors.

The company announced on March 6 that Bee had become its new marketing chief. She joined Harvey Nichols after a year with consultancy Eco-Age but was far better known for her work at competing retailer Harrods, where she spent more than 12 years and served as editor in chief of the in-house magazine.

The fact that Bee chose TBWA so quickly may seem less surprising when considering that she worked with the agency’s London team after they won the Harrods account in 2014.

“In my experience, TBWA\London have always delivered highly effective and creative work,” Bee said in a statement. “With the agency’s new leadership team fostering a renewed sense of energy throughout the company, the idea of giving them an opportunity to work on the Harvey Nichols account became irresistible.”

Regarding the abrupt decision, she told Adweek, “It’s not unusual for a new senior member of a team to want to shake things up and try a fresh approach. Harvey Nichols has been working with adam&eveDDB since I worked with Harvey Nichols the first time around—over 15 years ago. Adam&eveDDB have created amazing, award-winning campaigns, but it’s time for a change. We are looking for an alternative to brand campaigns, for a more targeted approach.”

The new leadership team Bee spoke of took charge in late 2017 after the larger TBWA network acquired independent agency Lucky Generals of Amazon Super Bowl fame and named partner Sarah Tate as its London CEO.

“Harvey Nichols is such a creatively rich brand so we’re incredibly excited to be working with them,” Tate added in her own statement. “Initially, we will be working together to strategically reposition the brand with the aim of increasing high end footfall and further developing fashion brand partnerships. This will give us the perfect platform for creating the top-notch work that Deborah Bee rightly expects of us.”

Adam&eveDDB representatives have not yet responded to a request for comment.

The retailer, which has been slower to enter the ecommerce realm than some of its competitors, recently made news by announcing a partnership with sales platform Farfetch. Its spending estimates were not available at the time this story went live.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.