No Love, Or Too Much

If you’ve got to split up, I’m all for the quickie divorce. It might not be less painful, but it is over faster, and both parties can move on sooner.

Still, Lance Jensen is not alone in bemoaning Arnold’s ignominious fate on Volkswagen, losing the signature account and its $400 million in billings, sans review, to Crispin Porter + Bogusky. I spent more than a few hours last week defending the automaker’s bold move to several sources who were nearly apoplectic on Arnold’s behalf. One senior agency executive described the Boston agency’s dismissal as “brutally unfair.” Another called it “unbelievably callous.”

I could not disagree more. Listen, VW’s new marketing chief, Kerri Martin, knew what she wanted. And more important, she knew whom she wanted working on her business. And it was CP+B, her agency while she was at BMW’s Mini. Why should she pretend otherwise? Who would benefit, other than the search consultant who’d be hauled in to run a review that should never have been conducted in the first place?

Potential contenders should thank Martin for skirting the sham review—you know, the kind where we all know who’ll win before anyone whips out a credentials deck. She saved a lot of agencies a lot of time and money. It’s probably best for Arnold, too, although I doubt Ed Eskandarian would see it that way. The doomed agency most likely would have felt compelled to defend the account; most incumbents do. And most incumbents don’t come close to hanging on to the business.

One could argue that a slow separation gives an agency more time to prepare financially. But agencies on notice typically don’t use that grace period to go out and replace the revenue with new business; they try to save the account instead. What having more time does offer, however, is a chance for those who are about to be laid off to look for work. I agree with Lance on one key point. It must be “unnerving” to get that call from the client who is about to pull the trigger. But seriously, does a drawn-out divorce make the news any easier to swallow?

Personally, I always did prefer to rip the Band-Aid off as quickly as possible. Why prolong the agony?

While VW had eyes for only one agency, the folks at Lowe’s, it turns out, showered more than just its winning agency with glowing praise. It seems that nearly every shop that walked out of the final pitch got a big wet kiss from at least one senior-ranking member of the client.

Something seemed a little off when three of the contenders claimed to have “nailed it” and predicted a win. But they all had good reason. In the week that followed the pitch, the client sounded smitten all around. I don’t know about the incumbent, McCann, but Deutsch and TBWA\Chiat\Day both received e-mails from selection-committee members telling them they were “brilliant” or that they gave a “breathtaking presentation.” Can you blame them for being confident?

By now, we know that BBDO was the winner. And this isn’t to take anything away from them. It was a clear and clean victory; that’s why it was surprising to learn before the decision came down that each contender was feeling the love.

Every client should be so effusive—or should they? I asked one of the losing agencies if it mattered what the client had said before going with someone else. “Actually, it hurts more,” the executive said. “We totally thought we won it, based on the feedback we received.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone blowing sunshine up my skirt if it’s not deserved. When I asked people at BBDO if they had heard about the wonderful things the client had told the other contenders, one exec shrugged it off and said, “Well, they said yes to us, and that’s all that matters.”

Right. The rest is just bullshit.