BA hosts online 'auction' for Euro comms account

BA is reviewing its European PR account (excluding the UK) as it tries to claw back market share from low-cost airlines and - in an unusual arrangement - has staged an e-auction for the business.

Shortlisted agencies have submitted proposals in an inverse bidding process where lowest prices are favoured. However, the cheapest bid will not necessarily win the contract, said BA comms manager for Europe Becky Thornton, who is considering whether to ask for formal representations before making a decision.

The move is part of a global cost-cutting drive to eke out efficiencies as part of the national flag carrier's two-year business plan, launched in March.

The first account under review covers northern, central and western Continental Europe, currently managed by six-year incumbent GCI. The second brief covers eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, held for 20 years by Action Global PR, which claimed to be the first agency to operate in Iraq (PRWeek, 31 October 2003).

The incumbents are battling against Porter Novelli and Weber Shandwick.

'We need to make sure we are getting excellent value for money,' said Thornton, adding that the selected agencies will manage corporate, consumer, trade and crisis PR.

'We also want to ensure that our corporate comms is consistent across Europe. Most of the work will be media relations based, covering press briefings, conferences and press trips,' she said.

Aer Lingus CEO Willie Walsh takes over from his BA counterpart, Rod Eddington, in September.

BA's share price has broadly recovered since Eddington joined in 2000.

Before his arrival, the carrier had been criticised for having an outdated pricing system, which was undermined by no-frills airlines. However, BA now competes in this market with its 'Euro traveller' ticket.

Pre-tax profits more than doubled last year, but rising fuel costs remain a concern.

- Leader, p23.

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