BBH nets Omo after eight-month pitch

But a valiant effort from the incumbent Lowe prevents Bartle Bogle Hegarty from taking the entire $200 million business.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty has no immediate plans to expand its micro-network, despite landing the stewardship of Unilever's global Omo account last week.

BBH takes charge of the strategic and creative direction of the brand and gains the lion's share of the executional business, working in the key markets of the UK, Europe, north and central America. Lowe won slimmer pickings from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The UK incumbent, JWT, has lost its 60-year hold on the Persil account.

However, despite its status as a favoured Unilever agency over the past few years, BBH was not in pole position from the start and was not immediately included on the pitchlist.

Unilever's pitch announcement in February lined up Omo's two roster networks: Lowe, its main incumbent, which handled the business across Europe and in the US; and JWT, which held the brand in the UK, where it is known as Persil.

An Omnicom network was expected to be added as the third on the list, but it was the Unilever roster agency, BBH, that was asked to pitch in May.

The brief was issued later that month. An otherwise weakened Lowe was in a strong position from the start because the brief stipulated the development of its "dirt is good" strategy. The idea, first used by Lowe in Brazil, has been rolled out globally, with JWT adapting it for the UK.

In addition, Lowe's global creative director on Unilever, Fernando Vega Olmos, was said to enjoy a healthy relationship with the advertiser thanks to strong work such as Sure's recent "stunt city" spot. The IPG chief, Michael Roth, also fielded Lowe's former global chief executive, Jerry Judge, taking him to dinner with senior Unilever marketers in The Netherlands.

The pitches took place in Sao Paulo, Bangkok, London and Johannesburg.

They were handled by Haystack and overseen by David Arkwright, the Omo global brand director, and Keith Weed, Unilever's group vice-president for global homecare.

The key battleground was Latin America, a growth market for Unilever. BBH's strength was the output of its Neo Gama BBH agency in Sao Paulo, which already handled Surf and Vaseline.

The final pitch was held in London last month. The decision to appoint BBH as the lead, strategic agency with Lowe as an executional partner in certain regions was announced last week.

BBH's winning team was led by Simon Sherwood, the worldwide chief operating officer. He worked alongside John O'Keeffe, the executive creative director; Nick Kendall, the head of planning; and Charlie Rudd, the agency's deputy managing director. The handover will take up to nine months.

The departure of the long-standing account comes as significant blow to JWT.

The agency's chief executive, Simon Bolton, said: "It's with great pride - for the famous work that we have produced for the past 60 years - that we pass on the Persil baton."

- Perspective, p25

UNILEVER BRANDS Omo geographical breakdown BBH: UK (Persil) Europe (Skip) North America (Wisk and Sunlight) Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Central America (Omo) Lowe: Asia, Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Caribbean (Omo) BBH's Unilever grip tightens BBH: Persil/Omo Lynx/Axe Frozen foods Vaseline Flora Surf Bertolli Lowe: Omo Sure/Rexona Cif Hellmann's Domestos Peperami