BA, Sky, Sainsbury's, Uber... seven account moves that shook up PR in 2018

2018 saw its fair share of major PR account moves. Here are seven that raised PRWeek's collective eyebrows.

1) British Airways waves goodbye to Grayling

The airline underwent big changes to its comms operation this year under Louise Evans, the former Sainsbury’s corporate affairs director (see number two in our list) who joined in February as director of external comms. BA’s seven-year relationship with Grayling ended as its international consumer PR account moved to WPP agencies Hill+Knowlton and Ogilvy. They were added to BA’s existing "Team Horizon" – WPP’s dedicated offer for BA owner International Airlines Group that comprises advertising, media, design and more. A certain recently departed WPP CEO may have called it ‘horizontality’. Elsewhere, BA also appointed Pagefield to a new corporate brief. The changes came amid departures from the in-house team, including head of global PR Kathryn Williamson.

2) Sainbury’s checks out Freuds

Freuds was back among the supermarket giants this year when it won a seven-way battle for Sainsburys’ consumer PR brief (the account began in March 2018). In 2017, the supermarket cut ties with previous consumer agency Golin following a restructure of its entire in-house comms function and its acquisition of Argos and Habitat. Freuds worked with rival Asda for nearly a decade until the end of 2016. The timing coincided with news that Louise Evans, Sainsbury’s director of corporate affairs, was moving to British Airways (see above).

3) Sky toasts new era with Edelman hire

Sky’s sale to Comcast this autumn coincided with a change of tack around its agency relationships. The broadcaster held a pitch for a new corporate brief to replace its existing financial account held by Finsbury for 15 years. Edelman emerged victorious in a three-way pitch against Weber Shandwick and MHP.

4) Uber and Deliveroo play agency musical chairs

In July, Uber and UberEats announced they had hired Hope&Glory as their new UK consumer PR agency, following a minor agency merry-go-round with Deliveroo. Hope&Glory was made the first UK consumer agency for Uber's Rides business in March, and won the pitch in July to take the same role with its food delivery business Uber Eats. Freuds previously worked for Uber Eats, but recently stopped, having taken on a purpose-drive and campaigning brief with rival Deliveroo (please keep up). Hope&Glory had itself worked with Deliveroo on consumer campaigns until earlier this year. Simple.

5) IBM picks Weber for global role

Weber Shandwick was the winner in an epic 18-consultancy pitch for IBM’s global anchor agency account, announced in May. The computer giant’s 20 agency partners were all invited to pitch for the brief, which includes work on the IBM Watson Content Hub, IBM’s newsroom, stakeholder engagement, major events, forums, and metrics. Of the two incumbents, Text100 decided not to pitch, while Ketchum participated in the initial written stage.

6) Burson and fracking firm end relationship

PRWeek revealed in June that chemicals giant Ineos and Burson-Marsteller had parted company, as the former came under fire from many quarters for its plans to start fracking – the controversial process of extracting shale gas from the ground. The move came around the same time that Burson-Marsteller UK CEO Stephen Day was made redundant as part of the agency’s merger with Cohn & Wolfe - Day was among those who originally brought the account to Burson.

7) Edelman and Hill+Knowlton get creative for Shell

In a positive sign for the PR industry’s creative abilities, the duo found their way onto Shell's new eight-strong creative agency roster. It represents an extension of Edelman’s existing work with Shell, dating back to 2006. In another twist, Edelman’s account lead at Shell, James Ruane, subsequently moved to The National Grid for a new social purpose role.

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