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Too Early for BBDO Obituary on the Chrysler Account

The news that Chrysler is looking at creative from agencies other than BBDO for Q4 seems to have triggered some sort of anti-BBDO pile-on. Ad Age wrote:

Chrysler's decision to ask outside agencies for creative ideas is a slap in the face for BBDO, which has stuck by Chrysler amid its bankruptcy and dwindling agency fees. BBDO's contract with Chrysler is up in January.
... there's one point that BBDO could and should take action on: the automaker's disloyalty. BBDO would do well to fire Chrysler and cut their losses.
Calm down, everybody! Let's not write BBDO's obituary before it's actually, you know, dead.

Isn't what's happening here completely predictable and, in fact, relatively uncontroversial business as usual?

Everyone knows that when a new client arrives to heard up marketing, changes are likely to be made to the agency roster. That's what's happening over at General Motors. BBDO was probably planning for a new client (Michael Accavitti, pictured) as soon as it learned Chrysler was entering bankruptcy.

Let's also remind ourselves that Omnicom's PHD is unaffected on the media side.

And while it may be infuriating that the client is looking elsewhere, this isn't a marriage, it's business. The client would be negligent if it didn't audit every single aspect of its marketing. This is a company in survival mode, after all.

Advertising attracts people with colossal egos, which is why the idea that BBDO should dramatically resign Chrysler and start fighting for the Volkswagen account sounds so seductive.

But that could be fantastically stupid. First, resigning the creative before January would annoy the client and immediately plunge the media portion of the business into jeopardy. Second, it is much cheaper to retain the client you have than it is to go out and win a new one. BBDO's chance of keeping some or all of Chrysler are greater than their chances of landing a new big fish.

Third, even the worst-case scenario is pretty lucrative: Assume the client wants to fire BBDO. The process of winding the account down, including the media, could take months. BBDO could still be collecting billings on Chrysler well into Q4 of 2010. A business in decline is much more profitable than no business at all, which is the scenario that happens if you walk out on a client in a hissy fit.

That's why BBDO's people should keep their egos in check and get to pitching. Chrysler doesn't owe BBDO a living; and the agency knows that. And while things may get uncomfortable for BBDO, there's no point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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