Diageo calls Baileys pitch to shake up advertising roster

LONDON - J Walter Thompson has been dealt a blow with news that the drinks giant Diageo is talking to rival agencies about Baileys Original Irish Cream Liqueur, with a view to creating a second place on its global roster.

The news comes in the same week that Diageo invited agencies to pitch for its £7m UK Archers account, which is currently handled by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Saatchis and Mother, all Diageo roster agencies, have held briefing talks with Diageo for an above-the-line pitch. Fallon, a non-roster agency, has also been briefed.

JWT is the incumbent on the global £40m Baileys account, which spends £5m a year in the UK. It is not known which agencies Diageo has contacted about the Baileys task.

The network was awarded the global account in 1997 after Diageo fired the Lowe Group from its roster and shifted its Malibu, Smirnoff and Baileys brands to JWT on an international basis. The agency has since lost the Malibu business following the sale of the coconut rum brand to Allied Domecq last year.

Along with its Baileys assignment, JWT will continue to handle the Gordon's Edge account and the global advertising briefs for J&B whisky, the Smirnoff range and Tanqueray Gin.

Diageo confirmed it was speaking to agencies. Paul Flanagan, the commercial PR manager for Diageo Great Britain, confirmed the Baileys review. "We are talking to other agencies about certain projects," he said.

Baileys dominated the cream liqueur market three years ago, but has since faced growing competition from Drambuie Cream and Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry, among others.

Baileys is the current sponsor of the American hit series 'Sex and the City' that is being screened on British TV.

Meanwhile, Saatchis was responsible for developing the "come out to play" strategy for Archers and also launched the Archers Aqua brand. Its elaborate spot, based on the hit Australian movie 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', is not thought to have helped the brand meet its sales target.

The agency picked up the Archers business from Burkitt DDB in 2000. It also handles the Guinness Draught account for Diageo outside the UK, as well as the £2m Jose Cuervo tequila business in the UK.

Flanagan said of the Archers brand: "Our aim is now to build on the successes of this campaign and develop new above-the-line creative for Archers.

"We cannot at this stage confirm budget or, indeed, which agency -- if any -- we will appoint to work with us on delivering our strategy."

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