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Advertising Nationwide

The 18 Feet & Rising/Nationwide dispute and the trouble with in-house advertising

By Jeremy Lee, columnist

August 19, 2015 | 4 min read

18 Feet & Rising’s current dispute with its former client Nationwide over the provenance of its recent “On your side for generations” campaign is still being played out before the courts, but it does at least demonstrate some of the dangers of clients taking creative work in-house in that it’s just not very good.

The origin of 'On your side' is being disputed

Whether the genesis of the work originated from 18 Feet & Rising or from Nationwide itself is for our learned friends to decide, but whatever the outcome, the schmaltzy over-sentimentality of the spot is typical of client-originated “me too” advertising. And it’s difficult to believe that some six years since Adam&Eve pioneered the genre, the ad it appears to be trying so hard to ape with its Vaseline-smeared lens, mawkish storyline and raspy voiced soundtrack is John Lewis’ Christmas activity – neither 18 Feet & Rising nor Nationwide deserve much credit for that.

Either way, and to add another level of confusion to the whole sorry affair, VCCP will be watching the outcome very carefully because it thought it was going to be handling the account following Nationwide’s split with 18 Feet & Rising earlier this year.

There aren't that many clients who manage to pull off in-house advertising that successfully – in fact there’s only really Specsavers, which has produced a consistently and gently humorous body of work that would be a highlight on any agency’s reel. We can only assume that Jaguar Land Rover thinks it can emulate this feat following its shock decision to shift its global advertising account into Spark 44, in which it has a 50 per cent stake and is effectively its in-house agency.

The big loser in the move in the UK is Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R and Wunderman. For the former it’s a particularly unwelcome blow given that the shop has been through a period of turmoil and soul-searching following the loss of its totemic Virgin Atlantic account and that it produced some of its finest and most memorable work for the client.

With RKCR/Y&R also under pressure from the Lloyds Bank review, which will see it go head to head with Adam&Eve/DDB, questions are being asked over what it’s future will be should be if the unthinkable happens and it loses the business. One rather tasty rumour doing the rounds is that to bulk up its presence CHI & Partners will in some way partner the rather diminished RKCR/Y&R to provide it with some much-needed heft.

For sentimentalists like me, seeing the RKCR brand diluted or diminished would be a tragedy. The shop has always been seen as the more creative and daring of the WPP stable, thanks to the heritage provided by its chairman and sole remaining founder Mark Roalfe and the spirits of the long-departed Rainey, Kelly and Campbell.

As for Jaguar Land Rover, which could be held partly responsible for dealing this blow, the balance of likelihood is that it’s advertising will become generic, ill-conceived and poorly produced without having the benefits of having the independence of an agency, and all the creative and brain power, that comes with it.

Follow Jeremy Lee on Twitter @jezzalee

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