The next person who says branding doesn’t count in business to business advertising should be shot. (Not that there are many nay-sayers when it comes to branding- but there are a few).

There are thousands of ad agencies in this country- and all of them would love to be able to take a stab at work for the premier consumer brands- like Nike, Apple, Burger King, Dominos, BMW, Ford etc…

But, when it comes to choosing an ad agency- Chief Marketing Officers seem to have tunnel vision. The list usually looks like this:

Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Wieden + Kennedy, TBWA Chiat/Day, Fallon, Arnold, Martin, Deutch, Goodby + Silverstein, GSD&M - you get the point. Maybe 50 agencies make the list- the rest, fight for the scraps.

Considering it can take at least a year before an agency can (or should) be comfortable enough to take a client in a new category (ad people don’t know everything there is to know about the shoe business- unless they’ve worked in it before) to a new place, with an on target strategy, changes like the following one, make me wonder:

Advertising Age - Nike Moves Running-Shoe Account to Crispin
Nike has officially transferred the creative work for its running-shoe business, as well as the Nike Plus and its Nike ID Web site accounts, to Miami-based Crispin Porter & Bogusky, a Nike spokesman said.
Nike’s running-shoe business was the first account expected to move from Wieden.
‘Proven track record’
“Crispin Porter & Bogusky has a proven track record for delivering creative, breakthrough ideas and we are excited to begin working with them to support these areas of business,” said Dean Stoyer, Nike’s U.S. director of media relations.
Mr. Stoyer said Nike will “continue working with our longtime creative partner Wieden & Kennedy to support the majority of our Nike business.”
Nike has been talking with Crispin for several months, and finally confirmed last month that it planned on moving pieces of its business to agencies other than Portland, Ore.-based Wieden. The running-shoe business was the first account expected to move.

While Crispin Porter + Bogusky is great at making noise, they have yet to take a brand the full course from a nobody like Nike was when Wieden + Kennedy started with them- to the power house they are now.

To abandon the date that brought you is a mistake of major proportions for Nike. If Wieden could afford it- telling Nike to take a walk on the whole shooting match would be the right move. Kudo’s to Roy Spence for rejecting WalMart’s invite to rebid the account after the Draft debacle. Loyalty and longevity in a client/agency relationship are valuable business assets, a part of the “goodwill” number on a balance sheet that shouldn’t be ignored.

The thing that baffles me is that both W+K can have the pick of ad talent (hiring)- if anything has stopped Nike from getting the work they think they are going to get from Crispin- it’s been on their side- not on the W+K side. However, if W+K had moved into a bunker mentality- worrying about losing the account (since it is a major part of their business) and the relationship changed from one of trust- to one of uncertainty, and stopped presenting the riskier, more volatile ideas because they thought that Nike wouldn’t be happy? Nike should look internally for their answer here- because from my perspective- they are trading down for an agency.