LONDON: Microsoft has kicked off an agency pitch for its UK b-to-b account, threatening Next Fifteen's decade-long hold on the work.
The review process is at an early stage. Microsoft has approached a number of agencies with requests for information for the work, which is estimated to be worth approximately $457,000. The company invited Next Fifteen-owned incumbent Bite to re=pitch for the business.
Nicola Taylor, UK director of PR at Microsoft, told PRWeek the company is aiming “to review competitively our commercial PR campaigns.” While there will be no change of focus beyond “communications targeted to people who use Microsoft for business,” the company would be “open to new ideas,” Taylor added.
The software giant is dominant in the desktop operating system market but is under pressure to translate this position to mobile devices increasingly popular with business users.
Next Fifteen has handled Microsoft's b-to-b duties since 2003 when the holding company set up b-to-b tech offshoot Inferno specifically to handle the account, which it won from Hill & Knowlton.
The work moved over to Bite in 2009 when Inferno merged with the agency. The conflict between the account and Bite's existing work with Apple is thought to have been a catalyst for the iPhone maker's split with the agency shortly afterwards.
“Bite, with its predecessor Inferno, has a long and productive relationship with Microsoft, having held the commercial PR business for a decade. We understand and respect Microsoft's decision to review at this time,” Bite MD Kath Pooley said.
Bite experienced a challenging first quarter in which it saw a management restructure, including the departure of CEO Clive Armitage, and a small number of layoffs.
Bite recently dropped global client Nokia. Sister agency Text 100 picked up global work for BlackBerry last month.
Microsoft's relationships with 3 Monkeys for consumer activity, Edelman for corporate work, and JCPR for its Xbox console are unaffected.
Note: The account budget was converted to American dollars using the XE currency exchange calculator.
This article originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK, the sister publication of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.