Maurice Saatchi has won back his place on the Mars agency roster with a
brief to relaunch the pounds 9.6 million-billing Whiskas catfood.
Mars’ Pedigree Petfoods subsidiary confirmed this week that M&C Saatchi
had been appointed to handle creative development of the brand, which
has been losing ground to its rival, Felix.
DMB&B will continue managing the account worldwide, including the UK,
and media buying will remain with the Media Centre, a DMB&B group
But the decision to draft in M&C Saatchi represents a significant vote
of confidence in the breakaway shop by the US confectionery and petfood
giant, 14 months after it took revenge on the Cordiant group agencies
for Maurice’s ousting.
Michael Jenkins, Pedigree’s external relations manager, said: ‘Our
company has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Maurice and we
believe his experience and knowledge will be beneficial to our
Mars chiefs are thought to have been reluctant to award M&C Saatchi
significant business while the agency was finding its feet. But the
assignment will surprise many in the industry who had expected it would
have to cut its teeth on a minor brand.
Whiskas has been chosen because Pedigree is keen to regain brand
leadership in the UK, which it has recently lost for the first time to
Felix, which is owned by its biggest competitor, Spillers.
The fightback is due to start in the autumn with a reformulated product
and advertising to re-energise Whiskas and give it a warmer image.
M&C Saatchi’s inclusion on the Mars roster has long seemed almost
inevitable. The company’s fury at Maurice’s firing by Cordiant at the
beginning of last year led to a review of its dollars 400 million global
business. As a result, the Cordiant-owned Saatchi and Saatchi and Bates
networks were dumped and BBDO joined Grey and DMB&B as a member of
Mars’ agency ‘club’.
Since then, Maurice has kept in frequent contact with Mars, which also
has well-established links with Jeremy Sinclair and David Kershaw, two
of M&C Saatchi’s founding partners, who worked on the company’s business
at Charlotte Street.