Remember the hubbub in the advertising industry last August
when the National Australia Bank unexpectedly moved the bulk of its $20 million
ad account from its long-time home at George Patterson Partners to little known Melbourne communications business,
See, without so much as a tender process?

Tongues were set a wagging over
what really sealed the deal, despite protestations from See chairman Simon
Hammond that his 45-person agency had “a proven track record,” and claims from NAB
spokesman John Fergusson that See just happened to be “the only
agency we’re talking to.”

One of the strongest rumours was that our friend Steve
Vizard was somehow connected to See and was one of the major forces behind
the deal. The rumours got stronger when, a month later, NAB signed on as the
major sponsor of the 2006 Commonwealth Games being held in Melbourne – a deal
happily announced by Ron Walker, Vizard’s good mate and chairman of the Commonwealth
Games Corporation.

See’s first major campaign for the bank – a series of print ads (here) using the Commonwealth Games sponsorship in an attempt to polish up NAB’s tarnished image – did nothing to quell the rumours.

But until this front page story appeared in The Australian today, the links between Vizard and See were unclear. The Oz reports that Vizard, in court as we speak for insider trading, has been busily
preparing for life after corporate death as a consultant to The Communicate
Trust – an umbrella organisation grouping at least 11 companies in advertising,
TV production and public relations, run by his friend Shaun Levin.

Among these
companies is – you guessed it – advertising agency See. It seems Levin, a former CEO of Vizard’s Artists
Services, has kept his disgraced friend in the loop, with an office in the St
Kilda headquarters of The Communicate Trust, although Vizard doesn’t appear as
a director or shareholder of any of the companies. Levin says his eventual
goal is to float or sell the group for a “significantly increased return
on our investment.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey