Eurotunnel begins search for lead marcoms agency

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is reviewing tenders for its consumer PR work across the UK and France as it prepares to pitch the account.

Under European law, Eurotunnel is obliged to carry out a review of its external agency relationships every three years. The firm is now looking to appoint a lead marketing agency across advertising, marketing and PR, as well as specialist firms to operate in each sector.

The firm currently uses The Red Consultancy, which was hired earlier this year to work on a project to attract consumers to the service.

Eurotunnel media relations manager Kevin Charles said Red is involved in the current tender process alongside a number of other UK PR agencies, and he suggested that the agencies were in contention for a lead role in Eurotunnel's new marketing line-up. It is likely that one agency will be chosen to handle consumer PR in both the UK and France, although Eurotunnel has not ruled out splitting the brief between several firms.

Formal notification of which firms will be invited to enter the final tender process will be issued in early September, with a view to having all of the agencies in place for the start of 2003. Details of the review are currently being handled by Eurotunnel's procurement department.

Eurotunnel operates the 'roll-on, roll-off' channel rail link between Folkestone and Calais, transporting passengers and freight with their road vehicles. The firm was responsible for the construction of the link, and holds a licence to operate the tunnel until 2086.

In 2001, Eurotunnel carried just over 2.5 million cars, which is almost one million fewer than it did in 1998. This fall has been attributed to a concerted fight-back from cross-channel ferry operators, which cut prices in an effort to rival the rail operator more fiercely.

Earlier this year, Eurotunnel was forced to spend a much-publicised £2m in an effort to prevent asylum-seekers from breaking into the rail complex and attempting to enter Britain.

The move followed heavy criticism of the UK Government for its failure to act against refugees from the Red Cross site at Sangatte, France.

Despite cancelling services due to disruption caused by asylum-seekers, last month Eurotunnel announced that it is on track to break even, after cutting its losses and debts.

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