What else could go wrong in $35m Australian bank pitch?

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SYDNEY -- St. George Bank's Marketing Director Peter Ryan resigned suddenly last Friday in a shocking disruption to the bank's high-profile review of its $35m advertising account. No reason was given. In a second unexpected blow to the bank, Jim Sweeney, 51, its managing director and chief executive died of a heart attack on Saturday.

Ryan's public attitude to the bank's review became controversial when four Sydney agencies resigned from the pitch following disagreements. The agencies are Clemenger BBDO, Whybin Lawrence TBWA, Ogilvy & Mather and Brown Melhuish Fishlock.

Ryan slammed the advertising industry two weeks ago, saying "smart marketers" were moving away from using advertising agencies which, he said, were out of touch with their customer base and in danger of becoming increasingly marginal. "I don't want an agency," he said, "I want a group of people who can understand what we're trying to achieve as an organization and work as part of a team...understanding their main responsibility is creative execution of ideas predominately for main media.

"A business person isn't going to take marketing advice from someone whose principal role in life is to turn out a glossy, 30-second TV commercial," he said. Several powerful agency executives immediately criticized Ryan as being naive.

Other Sydney agencies remaining in the pitch include DDB, J. Walter Thompson, Euro RSCG, Grey, Bray Media and Alexander Bird Kulmar Porra & Friends.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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