Investing in local... with a London agency!

Investing in local... with a London agency!

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Tuesday, December 11 2012

Looking at the online debate among Kent’s creative agency bosses, they are clearly miffed about the loss of another big contract to a big-name London agency.
For the second time in three years, Kent County Council decided that an agency with a top sounding name and no doubt an impressive, expensive pitch was a better bet than a firm based in Kent.
First, there was M&C Saatchi, which won the Kent Contemporary contract to inject fresh dynamism into Kent tourism.
Local firms pitched but were outclassed by a global big-hitter which won the £400,000 deal.
It was a controversial decision - but the results speak for themselves. An impressive series of innovative - iconic even - photographs showing Kent in ways never seen before. Using clever slogans, they were shown in a variety of settings, with a resulting boost in visitor numbers and revenue. 
Kent’s finest creatives might argue that they could have matched Saatchi performance but it would be a hard argument to win.
The same cannot be said for the Seven Hills contract which has resulted in the Grow for It in East Kent campaign.
Seven Hills founder Michael Hayman is a smooth articulate operator used to moving in high places. Leading political figures and ex-Dragon  Doug Richard are on his books.
But a lot of the £250,000 being paid to Seven Hills over time has gone on market research. For  anyone with a good knowledge of East Kent, the findings were akin to teaching granny to suck eggs.
He told us what many of us already knew. He made it seem as though he was the first person to discover the gems of East Kent. the lower cost of living and housing, high-speed trains, and the quality of life.
These facts would have been fully understood by Kent agencies without the need for much research.
Seven Hills has used the data to create slogans aimed primarily at Londoners - Swap your Oyster for Oysters for example. They have come up with some good stuff.
But Kent creative eyebrows rose at the decision to use posters on the sides of London buses and alongside Underground station escalators. “Old-fashioned” said one. Others questioned the choice of typography, saying it was too busy for a bus.
Another key question - rightly posed by Desmond High, a judge in the creative category for the 2011 Kent Excellence in Business Awards (KEiBA) - is whether or not KCC insists on the involvement, partnership even, of local agencies when it awards a creative contract. It says Seven Hills has given work worth £30,000 to Kent businesses but one suspects that is a token gesture rather than an obligation.
I’m not aware of any agency being asked to do the PR. I have heard nothing directly from Seven Hills - M&C Saatchi was better in that respect - and KCC did the PR for the recent Dover Cruise Terminal campaign launch event. 
Kent creatives have every right to be upset by this latest contract, watching frustrated on the sidelines while kudos goes to those with it already.
I am confident they could have done as good a job as Seven Hills - with the deep local knowledge that the London agency initially lacked - brought more money into the county, and shown that we have the creative skills and talent in the county to match the London big guns.
A high-profile contract win would have done wonders for Kent's creative sector, generating more revenue and underlining to the outside world  that it has what it takes to be a national player. 

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Categories: KCC

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The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess

The stories behind the stories, plus news, views, gossip and analysis from Kent Business editor Trevor Sturgess.

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