Carat wins global Vodafone account, but Team Red remains as local agency

Dentsu Aegis Network’s Carat has won Vodafone’s global media account, dethroning long-term global partner Wavemaker, part of the WPP group. However, the global appointment does not disrupt local arrangements, with WPP’s bespoke agency Team Red, set up especially to service Vodafone, remaining on the account.

Carat’s global remit includes media buying across markets including the UK, Germany and Italy, partnered with Vodafone’s in-house biddable media team.

“Vodafone is a future-focused organisation, challenging old ways of doing things while pioneering the new and maximising the opportunities of the digital economy,” said Will Swayne, DAN’s chief client officer, media and performance.

“We are delighted to be partnering with them, integrating the best of our agency capabilities to accelerate Vodafone’s evolution to become market-leading in digital marketing and in-house media buying.”

Locally, Team Red will remain on the account after being created last year to streamline and transfer the work of all WPP agencies, including Wunderman Thompson, to one dedicated agency. Vodafone appointed Wunderman Thompson – then known as J Walter Thompson (JWT), before its merger with Wunderman in November last year – in 2017 after a short stint with Cummins & Partners.

Team Red made headlines last month when it was revealed Carmel Williamson, the agency’s former managing director, is taking WPP to court over a lack of support and “boys club” culture that she says led to her needing psychological treatment. WPP is contesting the case.

Williamson alleges that just two of the 11 JWT staff on the Vodafone account were transferred over to Team Red when it launched in May 2018, behind schedule. Additionally, she claims that JWT continued to communicate directly with Vodafone without her knowledge, despite being directed not to in response to repeated Vodafone complaints that it was “confusing” and “inappropriate”.

Williamson also said in court documents that the Team Red staff who did move across from JWT were ordered to perform work for their old agency on accounts like Nestle on three separate occasions without her consent. However, WPP counters that this was reasonable given the impact their redeployment had on the remaining JWT team when urgent work came up.

WPP argues that Williamson was dismissed because “she lost the confidence of the principal client of the agency she was appointed to manage”. The holding group alleges that Vodafone became increasingly frustrated about the quality and timeliness of Team Red’s services and its “hands off” approach, with the situation deteriorating despite opportunities being presented to Williamson to address the concerns.


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