EXCLUSIVE: Cell C drops King James, FoxP2 – retains Ogilvy
by Herman Manson (@marklives) Cell C has decided to drop King James and FoxP2 as its advertising agencies. Cell C had announced in February that it had appointed FoxP2, King James, Prima Plus and Trigger/Isobar as its ad agencies. King James and FoxP2 were to replace Ogilvy Johannesburg. Ogilvy will now be retaining the Cell C business.
The news in February that FoxP2 and King James would take over the account had hardly been announced when the account move was frozen. Alan Knott-Craig had been appointed new Chief Executive Officer of Cell C and had not been party to the decision on the new agency appointments, while Cell C brand and marketing communications executive Mandy Waddington, who presided over the agency appointment process, left the company.
Speculation on the account review escalated as Cell C drew a curtain of silence around the process – by informed accounts not even communicating progress with the affected ad agencies. An unsubstantiated but widely circulated industry rumour suggested financial impropriety in the awarding of the business – a charge rejected by the Waddington, King James and FoxP2.
Both King James and FoxP2 have indicated that they have been informed of Cell C’s decision, that they in discussions with Cell C and that until these are concluded they would be unable to comment further. Both reserved their rights in the matter.
FoxP2 had to resign one of its clients, M-Web, after winning Cell C. It had also started hiring staff to service the Cell C account.
Alistair King, co-founder of King James, released the following statement; “We’re obviously not happy, and we’re exploring our options.” Earlier in the month King James had indicated that Cell C had informed it of the review process on March 5 “while an internal dispute with their marketing executive was resolved”.
“We have impeccable credentials as an agency and will do a great job on the Cell C business, and until we are informed otherwise, we have faith that Cell C will see that and honour our incumbent status,” King James said at the time.
trigger/isobar, the incumbent digital agency, which retained the digital business when the agency roster was announced in February, has not been affected by the review according to its MD Willem van der Merwe. This has been confirmed by Cell C.
Peter Farrell, Managing Director at Prima Plus, also said that its appointment by Cell C “has never been placed under review or questioned in any way by Cell C or any other party. Our credentials in the industry are impeccable and remain intact. We have an excellent, open and professional relationship.” However in a statement released by Cell C the company indicated that “Cell C is still in discussions with Prima Plus” around its appointment.
Yardstick had been involved in the original pitch process and Waddington has confirmed that FoxP2 and King James scored top marks across the decision making panel of five. Both agencies were to appoint client service teams in Johannesburg and a road map for work had been put in place to make geographic location largely irrelevant.
Karin Fourie, Senior Manager: Public and Media Relations at Cell C, confirmed that “Ogilvy SA has been retained as Cell C’s above-the-line agency, however, other agencies may be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on Cell C’s requirements.”
On the the reasons behind the decision to not follow through with the account winners announced in February Fourie said that “Since the announcement of the preferred bidders issued in early February 2012, the general business strategy of the company has evolved. Cell C believes that Ogilvy is best placed to execute the strategy.”
According to Fourie Cell C will pay the pitch fees of the pitching agencies in accordance with the ACA Code of Conduct.