Cell C puts new agency decision on review
by Herman Manson (@marklives) Cell C has put its new agency appointments, which was formally announced to the media and industry on February 10, under review. Cell C had announced the appointment of FoxP2, King James, Prima Plus and Trigger/Isobar as its ad agencies.
In a rather terse statement Karin Fourie, Senior Manager: Public and Media Relations at Cell C, stated that “the new CEO is currently reviewing the appointment of an agency or agencies” and refused to comment further or to respond to a request to clarify the one-liner.
Alan Knott-Craig was recently announced as the new Chief Executive Officer of Cell C and joined the company on 1 April 2012. Knott-Craig helped found rival Vodacom and lead the company for 15 years.
Cell C also confirmed the resignation of Mandy Waddington, the Cell C Brand and Marketing Communications Executive who presided over the agency appointment process, while stating that it had a policy in place to not comment on the reasons for executives leaving the business.
Waddington herself says she is but one in a list of executives to have left the company, pointing to Simon Camerer, executive head for marketing at Cell C, who left the company in December and Sue Kennedy, Cell C’s executive head of sales and distribution, who also resigned.
According to Waddington she accepted a resignation package and was asked to leave the company on the same day.
Waddington rejected industry speculation that the pitch process or the decision to appoint the new agencies were flawed, saying that Yardstick was involved in the process, and that no disciplinary process had been instituted against her or any of the other four members of the panel that presided over the agency selection, that might have indicated wrong-doing.
In their individual scoring of potential agencies all five panel members were unanimous in awarding King James and FoxP2 the highest scores. The fact that they were both based in Cape Town wasn’t a problem as a well designed road map for work had been put in place and both agencies had agreed to appoint teams in Johannesburg where Cell C is based, says Waddington.
The agencies themselves have had no communication from Cell C beyond notice that their appointment were being reviewed – that was six weeks ago – MarkLives.com learnt.
In a statement requested from and released by King James its founding partners, Alistair King and James Barty, noted that “having been appointed by Cell C in mid February, Cell C requested on March 5 that we sit tight while an internal dispute with their marketing executive was resolved. We were told this would take a period of 4 weeks. We have honoured this request, and still do, despite the fact that rumours are growing more colourful and more imaginative by the week. 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. It is, however, in the interest of all our reputations that this gets resolved sooner than later.”
An unsubstantiated but widely circulated industry rumour suggests some financial impropriety in the awarding of the business, worth over R100 million in billings, and this has been rejected by both primary agencies and Waddington. Cell C failed to respond to a question on whether the pitch process was being investigated internally.
Waddington says that the credentials of FoxP2 and King James speaks for itself. “They don’t need to pay out money to win new work,” says Waddington. “I have met few people in this industry with more integrity than Alistair King (Group Creative Director – King James) and Charl Thom (MD – FoxP2)
FoxP2, the other primary agency next to King James, had already staffed up on the news that they had won the account, and had also resigned one of their clients, M-Web (there was a strategic conflict through as association with MTN), to accommodate Cell C.
Says Thom in a statement; “Anyone who knows FoxP2 or has dealt with either myself or Justin over the last fifteen years, knows the importance we place on honesty, transparency and integrity. These principles are simply non-negotiable. So any industry rumours doing the rounds regarding FoxP2 are unfounded and devoid of any truth. We have been reassured by Cell C that they need some time to conclude an internal process, but that it will be resolved shortly, and that we will start working together from a clean slate thereafter.”