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 brand
(Campaign, last week).
The move, coming so soon after British Airways’ public recognition that
its pounds 60 million global account is to stay with M&C Saatchi, marks
a significant vote of confidence in the agency.
It also reflects Mars’ anxiety about the sales effectiveness of its
existing advertising, much of which is still based around superior
product acceptance and the line ‘eight out of ten cat owners prefer it’
- a campaign that has existed since 1969 when the brand was relaunched
after a crippling purchase tax was placed on petfoods for the first
This is not entirely a business-driven decision. It is also a reflection
of the trust that exists between the Mars brothers, Forrest and John,
and the Saatchi brothers, an interesting relationship that led Mars to
banish the Saatchi and Saatchi group from its global roster in the wake
of the boardroom coup last year.
The losing agency, DMB&B, is left in an intriguing position on the
Whiskas account. A Mars roster agency for 64 years, DMB&B will continue
to manage the account worldwide but it will not be charged with
producing ads to fight the new market leader from Spillers, Felix.
It will be interesting to see whether M&C Saatchi’s creative leeway will
be as generous as the agency hopes. Mars is one of those companies which
has always operated on a number of clearly thought-out principles, many
originating from strongly held personal convictions of Forrest Mars Sr,
the company’s ruthless founder. One of these principles is to advertise
heavily, mainly on TV, with consistent campaigns. So, despite the
undoubted expertise of Maurice Saatchi, Jeremy Sinclair and David
Kershaw on the account, we may not witness the demise of the Whiskas
blind-test line after all.