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By Published on .

[london] Controversy has dogged M&C Saatchi's selection as ad agency for the British government-supported company promoting the year 2000 millennium celebrations.

New Millennium Experience Co. awarded the $26 million assignment last month, then last week denied complaints by rival agencies that M&C Saatchi had an unfair advantage in the review.

New Millennium is supervising a multimillion-dollar series of celebrations that focus on a domed exhibition, dubbed the Millennium Experience, near London at Greenwich, home of the prime meridian.

M&C Saatchi won the account Aug. 22 after a competition involving four other agencies: Abbott Mead Vickers/ BBDO, Leo Burnett Co., Ogilvy & Mather and TBWA Simons Palmer, all London.


Complaints about the review centered on the prior involvement of Bill Muirhead-a partner in M&C Saatchi-in the affairs of New Millennium, and whether rival agencies had adequate access to senior New Millennium officials.

Mr. Muirhead became New Millennium's unpaid acting communications director in February, but left New Millennium in June, two weeks before the company invited agencies to bid for its account. In addition, New Millennium Chairman Robert Ayling is CEO of M&C Saatchi client British Airways.

New Millennium Senior Press Officer Terence Gibbons said last week that Mr. Ayling had no involvement in the early stages of the review and only approved the five-member agency review panel's recommendation, along with the rest of New Millennium's board.


"The tendering [review] panel was set up to keep all approaches [by ad agencies] strictly by the book," said Mr. Gibbons. It consisted of Jennie Page, New Millennium CEO and former CEO of the government-backed English Heritage preservation trust); Michael Grade, New Millennium non-executive director and former head of England's Channel 4); Ian Ash, non-executive director and a director of corporate strategy at British Telecommunications); and Jeff Hawkins, New Millennium implementation director in charge of the review.

When the account was awarded last month, Ms. Page said, "M&C Saatchi was the agency that offered by far the most practical and commercial response to the challenges ahead and understood the limited time-scale. The tender [review] panel therefore unanimously agreed on the choice of

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