When high-street bakery Greggs moved its marketing business out of Newcastle-based Robson Brown and into RPM3 in London in 2002, it was regarded as a significant blow to agencies outside the M25. As Greggs was due to launch its debut TV advertising campaign, which appeared to highlight a lack of confidence shown in agencies outside of London when it came to high profile campaigns.
However, after two years in the capital, Greggs has returned to its Northern roots. In January, the firm kicked off an agency search, hosting a five-way pitch. Nine months later, a new agency/client relationship was born; Leeds-based Propaganda has been appointed as Greggs\' retained agency, in a role that will see the agency help to grow the brand.
“Contrary to some early reports, we have actually been without an agency for quite a while,” says Scott Jefferson, marketing director at Newcastle-based Greggs. “We haven’t been working with RPM3 this year and they did not re-pitch for the account.”
Although the names of the agencies involved in the pitch are not being announced, Jefferson says his pitch list involved companies from both London and the North. “My view is that it doesn’t matter where they are based. When we started looking for an agency, our aim was simply to find the best. Propaganda didn’t win the pitch because they were in the North, they won because they were the best of the five companies we asked to pitch.”
It was the methodology and experience possessed by Propaganda that won the account, Jefferson explains: “What I really like about Propaganda is that they have an inside-out approach to marketing. We have 19,000 employees and these are your primary audience. It’s through these people and the shops that the brand reaches the customer. Through their client-side experience, with the likes of First Direct, Propaganda was able to fully understand the need for an inside-out approach to our marketing.”
From the initial five, Greggs had whittled the list to two agencies by May, which were then commissioned to present creative work. Both agencies were paid a contribution fee by the client.
“We gained a hell of a lot from the pitch process,” says Jefferson. “It was certainly the most comprehensive pitch that I’ve ever been involved in and I thank all of the agencies for their input and effort. We know the contribution we made doesn’t cover the time and effort the two agencies put in, but we felt it was important to acknowledge the input they would be providing.”
It was Greggs’ approach that impressed Mike Phillipson, Propaganda’s managing director. In the past, Phillipson has experienced prejudices against agencies based outside of London. “It’s pretty rare for a marketing director to give agencies an even playing field. Normally, London agencies have an advantage in a pitch because a marketing director will bring their own preconceptions to the process.
\"Therefore, it was a fantastic opportunity to pitch on an even playing field for a client like Greggs. And to then win the account was fantastic.”
While Phillipson is honest enough that winning Greggs could help open more doors for Propaganda, he also feels a high-profile move such as this will be a catalyst for further successes outside of London.
“I think it sends out a positive message about agencies in the regions, not just Propaganda. When given the opportunity to pitch against London agencies, without any agendas, regional agencies can compete and come out on top. Hopefully, us winning a client of Greggs\' stature will catch the eye of other clients, who might end up including regional agencies on their pitch lists.”
Richard Benjamin, director at Sheffield-based Uber, believes that, while a client’s decision to move its business north may not carry the same weight as it once did, it does help to prove that agencies don’t need to be in London to do a good job for a client. “A client moving their business north is still cause for celebration, although not as significant a statement as it once was,” he says. “In many ways, though, it simply confirms what we all know and proves that clients are finally realising that there is huge creative talent beyond the boundaries of Soho. One has to question, is that because the creative talent no longer feels they have to move to or remain in London to have a successful career?”
Manchester-based BJL works with Bradford & Bingley, which, until a year ago, had been a traditionally London-based account. However, BJL director Nicky Unsworth believes that what these types of wins highlight is that geography has no bearing on an agency’s ability to produce results for high-profile clients.
“Our belief is you lose pitches because you aren\'t good enough, not because you aren\'t in London!” she says. “Geography is irrelevant; it\'s about making a difference to the client\'s business that counts. Our recent Bradford and Bingley win demonstrates this. Having previously resided in London, the client has placed the business with a team at BJL who they trust to work with them to deliver effective solutions.”