Mitchells wins Fairfax as agencies ponder the playing field

Mitchell Communication Group has won the prestigious Fairfax Media pitch, Mumbrella can reveal.  

The agency beat off competition from rivals including PHD, Ikon and incumbent Inititiative.

However, although Fairfax has probably saved money on its $15m-spending account, it will find itself being asked tough questions by the losing agencies.

Towards the start of the process, speculation appeared in the Australian Financial Review, which was at the time denied by Fairfax, that the process was a foregone conclusion, with Mitchells the favourite to win.

Mumbrella understands, from more than one source, that the final stages of the pitch were unusual in that none of the losing agencies were asked follow-up questions about their pitches.

And while in most pitches, there is little that a defeated agency can do, when the brand is a media owner, it becomes a more complex relationship.

Of the agencies on the lineup, Mitchells has the biggest spend. But the losers also do significant business with Fairfax, and Mumbrella understands that CEO Brian McCarthy will be asked to reassure them that the decision was not made based upon Mitchells giving the publisher a greater share of its clients’ business.

If he fails to persuade them, then one speculated that Fairfax’s rival News Ltd could benefit, even if it lost business to Mitchells.

The agencies indicated that they would be watching Mitchells’ spending patterns with Fairfax with interest in the coming months.

Mitchells CEO Stuart Mitchell told Mumbrella that he was unwilling to comment until he had  seen any announcement in writing. Fairfax spokesman Bruce Wolpe said there was not yet an announcement to be made.

Update: That announcement came 12 minutes after Mumbrella posted this story.

In the release, Fairfax said: “A comprehensive and robust review process was undertaken by Fairfax Media which saw four media agencies shortlisted. The agencies were required to respond to two media briefs and submit a detailed proposal document.”

The release quoted Fairfax CEO Brian McCarthy as saying: “In every critical respect — general capabilities, media agency capability, and commercial terms — Mitchells was the clear winner for us, with the unanimous endorsement of the  selection team.”

And it also quoted Stuart Mitchell: “We look forward to working across these prime businesses, in print and online, and helping them achieve their objectives with advertisers and audiences.”


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